Can police information be shared if no conviction secured?

When a teacher was offered the headship of an infants school and
a request was made for a police check, enquiries revealed that two
separate investigations had been carried out following allegations
of inappropriate behaviour with children at schools where the
teacher had been employed.

No charges were brought because the crown prosecution service
had been of the opinion that there was insufficient evidence.

The school then withdrew the offer of employment. The applicant
applied for judicial review, arguing that the decision to pass on
the information was unfair, and contravened the provisions of the
Data Protection Acts of 1984 and 1998 and the Data Protection
(Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000.

The court held that it was legitimate for the police to transfer
sensitive personal information, even though there had been no
conviction. There was no impropriety where a police force
communicated that information to a local education authority since
that authority would have a lawful interest and a pressing need to
receive it.

Those who were required to obtain such information in order to
pass it on to an appropriate authority were required to give
consideration to the need to pass it on. The receiving authority
should make its own enquiries having been put on notice of the
previous investigations.

The disclosure was not contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998
as the information fell within the category of ‘sensitive personal
data’ which was exempt by virtue of the first data protection
principle, namely that data was being processed for the prevention
and detection of crime. The disclosure was also permissible in view
of the provisions of the Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive
Personal Data) Order 2000, which exempted data where the processing
was necessary for the exercise of any functions conferred on a
constable by any rule of law.

This decision related to events which preceded the
implementation of the Data Protection Act 1998 in October 2000, but
as can be seen, the judge specifically held that the position would
have been the same under that act and the order made under it.
Although the decision related to a teacher, it could clearly be
relevant to anyone working with children.

(R v Chief Constables of C and D, ex parte A [2001] 2 FCR

Richard White

White and Sherwin Solicitors





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