Recently the Supreme Court ruled that a teacher who was found not guilty of rape could not have reference to the case, which had been included by the Police on an enhanced criminal record check (ECRC) removed. The actual ruling is not surprising as the Supreme Court has made similar judgements in the past such as highlighted in this previous Newsblog report. However, the judgement raises questions about the competency of Supreme Court judges, as allowing the information to be included in an ECRC is clearly perverse as it undermines basic rights that it is essential to uphold and sets dangerous precedents for the future.
There are a number of issues with the judgement as outlined below:
Firstly and perhaps most obvious is that by adding the case to the teacher’s ECRC record the implication is that he is guilty even though he has been found not guilty by a jury. This not only undermines the not guilty verdict, but also the validity of the jury’s decision and by extension the validity of jury trials.
Secondly, it is unfortunately the case that many organisations effectively treat any information on a criminal records check as a conviction (the “accusation is conviction” principle) and this inevitably can have a devastating effect on an individual’s career if like the individual in this case, they work in a profession where criminal records check is a mandatory part of the job application.
Thirdly, it should be noted that it was the Police who added the information to the criminal records database and passed the information onto the teachers perspective employers and the judgement gives cart blanch permission for them to continue doing this without any restriction. This was also a consequence of the previous decision in the case highlighted above so the Supreme Court is being consistent. However, it remains a dangerous decision as it establishes a legal basis for indiscriminate inclusion of data on databases and the distribution of such data without any sort of controls.
The database state and mass surveillance are growing all the time and the law is not keeping up with the rapid development both in scope and technical capability. We need UK law and courts to be effective at both protecting citizens’ rights and curtailing the excesses of the Database State and the mass surveillance associated with it. Unfortunately, at the moment UK courts and judges appear to be unable to grasp the significance of allowing uncontrolled access to dubious and/or unverified information and the catastrophic impact it can have on individuals.