CRB checks, DBS checks or ECRCs, whatever they are called, criminal record checks have become an integral part of many employment and recruitment procedures.
The object is laudable: to protect children and vulnerable people from coming into contact from those who are unsuitable to be among them. However, a decision of the Supreme Court at the end of July has exposed an interesting aspect of enhanced checks that many people did not realise and which raises interesting questions concerning our justice system and how mere involvement in a criminal process without any finding of wrongdoing can still result in a disclosure which can call into question the suitability of the individual concerned.
The case concerned someone known as “AR” (he cannot be named for legal reasons, a qualified teacher who was found not guilty of rape in 2011 after a Crown Court trial.
Although he was found not guilty, details of the allegation and the verdict were included in his criminal records certificate. Following hearings on 21 November 2017 and 23 April 2018, Lord Carnwath delivered the judgment of the Supreme Court. The respondents were the Chief Constable of Manchester Police and the Home Secretary.
In a report into the operation of the criminal records legislation, its author Sunita Mason pointed out that there was:
“…a degree of dissatisfaction with a system that has evolved with the laudable aim of protecting vulnerable people but is now viewed by some as intrusive and an unnecessary bar to employment. There is also concern that some people may be treated as ‘guilty until proven innocent'”
As a result of her report there were amendments to the legislation including a right to request a review.