NASUWT legal challenge secures greater protection for falsely accused teachers07 May 2009
Fewer teachers who face allegations made by pupils will now suffer the trauma of being arrested
As a result of a legal challenge mounted by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, in defence of one of its members, fewer teachers who face allegations made by pupils will now suffer the trauma of being arrested and having their DNA, fingerprints and photographs taken and retained when attending a police station following such an allegation.
This means they will not be subject to adverse inference on Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosures.
The legal challenge initiated by the NASUWT has resulted in Northumbria Police having to destroy the DNA of Matthew Wren, who they conceded had been wrongly arrested.
The High Court held that the police did not have the power to arrest and take DNA or fingerprints from a teacher who attended a police station voluntarily and fully co-operated with the investigation.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: “This is a critically important development in the Union’s long-running campaign to ensure that teachers who face allegations from pupils are treated fairly.
“This judgment has wide implications for teachers and all those who work with children and young people.
“The NASUWT has been campaigning since the early 1990s to protect teachers when they face allegations from pupils.
“Mr Wren’s case highlights the partial treatment teachers often experience when they are accused by pupils.
“There is something wrong with law enforcement when a teacher, himself a victim of assault, reports this to the police only to be arrested as a result of a counterclaim by the pupil. In Mr Wren’s case, the assault on him was never investigated.
“The outcome of this case will significantly change the way teachers who are accused of assault are dealt with by the police.
“It is clear from the decision that the police should be better trained to apply provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
“There is still much more to do to ensure that teachers and those who work with children and young people receive fair treatment when they face allegations, but this is undoubtedly a major step in the right direction.
“Unfortunately, however, although the outcome is positive, the end result of the mishandling by the police has led to yet another dedicated teacher being lost to the profession because of failures in the system.”
NASUWT member Matthew Wren, 37, a history teacher from Chester le Street, voluntarily attended Washington Police Station where, despite protests from his solicitor, he was arrested over allegations of common assault against a school pupil. Mr Wren was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Mr Wren had reported to the police an assault he had suffered at the hands of a pupil and the allegations against Mr Wren were as a result of a counterclaim made by that pupil.
As part of the arrest process the police took DNA samples, Mr Wren's photograph and fingerprints. By law, police can keep these records irrespective of the outcome of the arrest. The Police National Computer (PNC) had also been marked with ‘CJ arrestee’, which would lead to disclosure to any prospective employer carrying out the obligatory enhanced CRB check.
With the support of the NASUWT, Mr Wren challenged the legality of his arrest and sought the destruction of his personal records. The High Court granted permission for a judicial review, but a few days before the full hearing the police conceded, agreeing to a Consent Order declaring the arrest unlawful. An order was made that the photographic, fingerprint and DNA records be deleted and the PNC was amended.
Mr Wren said: “It comes with great relief to hear the police have conceded my arrest was unlawful and that this incident will now be removed from my police record.
“This has traumatised me so much I was forced to leave a job I had loved for over 15 years. I would not want anyone to endure what I have been through the last year. It has put a massive strain on my health and has strained my marriage almost to breaking point.”
Craig Hunn from the NASUWT’s lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors, added: “This clarifies the law as set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act."