A husband, a father, a trained teacher – an innocent man with a “damaging” label for life.
A man, identified only as AR in court, was working as a taxi driver in 2011 when a rape allegation was made against him. He was found not guilty at trial and was acquitted. AR later applied for an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (ECRC) following the application process for a job as a lecturer. The ECRC issued contained information regarding the rape charge and his acquittal. AR claimed the reference infringed his Article 8 right to respect for private life, but the Court of Appeal(COA) ruled against him in 2016.
The Supreme Court’s Judgement:
AR appealed to the Supreme Court and on Monday 30th July 2018 the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed AR’s appeal by agreeing with the COA, holding that information about
acquittal on Enhanced DBS Checks is reasonable, proportionate and justified. Lord Carnwath further stated that disclosure about the charge and acquittal was a “matter of public record” and no more than necessary to meet the pressing social need for which the ECRC was enacted.
Criticisms of the Judgement:
However, the case received many criticisms and raised important questions regarding the risks associated with acquittals and allegations being disclosed on an ECRC. Despite the Supreme Court dismissing the appeal, Lord Carnwath acknowledged the adverse effects that the ruling may have on individuals. He noted that “…the acquitted deserve greater protection from unfair stigmatisation”.
Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, a charity representing people with criminal convictions, reinforced Lord Carnwath’s notion by stating that the current system has “harsh consequences and damaging effects on individuals”. AR is one of many individuals that continuously struggle with pursuing certain employment prospects, despite being acquitted by a jury.
To be acquitted is to be freed from a criminal charge, it is a label that the charged dream of hearing, yet is it not strange that the very label the charged dream to hear is now hindering their dreams – of career development, better job prospects and a brighter future? Christopher Stacey describes it as “an additional sentence that often runs for life”.
It is unfortunate that being acquitted, a positive outcome, could have negative connotations in the eyes of certain employers and therefore it is imperative that “careful thought” is given when disclosing allegations which have been tested in court and have led to an acquittal.
What does this mean for YOU? / What next?
The Supreme Court ruling will affect people applying for an ECRC, so if you have been charged and acquitted, this information could be presented to your potential employers.
If you need any advice or assistance in relation to the above or if you have been affected, give us all a call on 01582 459 955.