South Yorkshire Police have been criticised by a High Court judge for the force’s treatment of an innocent teacher who was cleared by a jury of sexually molesting pupils.
Despite the man’s acquittal, the force insisted on listing the allegations on his enhanced criminal record certificate, which employers can see – effectively destroying his career in the classroom.
Mr Justice Coulson said the force’s ‘fundamentally flawed’ approach was rooted in the belief of officers that the man was ‘fortunate to be acquitted’.
Ordering South Yorkshire’s Chief Constable David Crompton to rethink the decision to disclose details of the court case, the judge ruled the teacher’s treatment had been ‘disproportionate’ and his career blighted.
The dispute goes back to 2005 when the teacher – who cannot be named – was working at a Sheffield school and was accused by four girls of ‘tapping’ their bottoms.
Judge Coulson said there were concerns at the time the schoolgirls had colluded against the teacher and acted together to avenge a boy who had been expelled.
The teacher denied any wrongdoing and a Sheffield Crown Court jury acquitted him of indecent assault and sexual activity with a child.
The case was investigated by the Department of Children, Schools and Families, as well as the General Teaching Council, both of whom decided to take no action.
Even so South Yorkshire Police disclosed material relating to the trial on his criminal record certificate, leading to him losing volunteer posts outside work, and he was also later sacked from his job.
The disclosures meant his ‘exile from teaching’, Judge Coulson said.
He added South Yorkshire Police ‘plainly believe the claimant was fortunate to be acquitted and they have decided they will treat the allegations as substantiated, to use their word, in any event’.
The Chief Constable now has eight weeks to decide what should appear on the man’s enhanced criminal record certificate.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “South Yorkshire Police are considering the content of the judgement that was made. The Force takes its safeguarding responsibilities very seriously and recognise each case contains an individual set of circumstances which can be very complex.”