Unravelling the golden thread?
- By Paul Sullivan
‘Throughout the web of the English Criminal Law one golden thread is always to be seen that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt…’ Woolmington v. DPP  AC 462 per Viscount Sankey LC
The Supreme Court recently considered the right to privacy of an Appellant (‘AR’) in the context of the disclosure to a potential employer that he had been acquitted on a serious criminal charge.
AR, who had no criminal convictions, applied for a job as a Lecturer. As a part of the application process, an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (‘ECRC’) was required. While a basis criminal records check would merely disclose the existence of any conviction, the ECRC included disclosures which, in the opinion of the Chief Constable, were relevant and ought to be included in the certificate. In AR’s case, this included the disclosure that he had been found not guilty of rape in 2011. AR objected to this disclosure being made.
The Supreme Court, dismissing AR’s appeal, upheld the findings of the lower courts that the disclosure was ‘reasonable, proportionate and no more than necessary’ to secure the objective of protecting young and vulnerable persons. In any event, it should be borne in mind that the information about the charge and acquittal was a matter of public record, and might have come to the potential employer’s knowledge from other sources.
Beyond the scope of the appeal, the Supreme Court noted: ‘Careful thought needs to be given to the value in practice of disclosing allegations which have been tested in court and have led to acquittal.’
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