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False Police Disclosure Violated Teacher’s Human Rights

A science teacher whose career was blighted by disclosure of false and damaging information to his employers by the police has won an important High Court ruling that what happened amounted to a violation of his human rights.

The teacher had been dismissed from his post at a primary school after governors found, amongst other things, that he had made inappropriate comments to female pupils, which they had taken to be of a sexual nature. He found another job at a girls’ school after both the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the General Teaching Council decided to take no action against him.

However, after the local police force’s child abuse investigation unit found out what had happened, an officer informed a local authority official – wrongly – that he had been sacked for inappropriately touching pupils. When that information found its way to the girls’ school he was suspended and eventually resigned under a cloud whilst disciplinary proceedings against him were pending.

The High Court accepted that the police officer concerned genuinely believed that the information that he passed on was correct. However, necessary inquiries had not been carried out and the information was ‘inaccurate in the sense of being untrue’. The fact that the disclosure was not made directly to the girls’ school did not mean that the force could abdicate all responsibility for the consequences.

The disclosure had breached the teacher’s right to respect for his privacy, enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court’s ruling opened the way for the teacher to claim damages from the relevant police force to reflect the impact of the disclosure on his reputation and career.