A High Court judge has acknowledged that workers’ careers can be ruined by unproven allegations kept on police files but refused to allow a challenge to the rules.
Mr Justice Blake said he recognised the “difficult circumstances” a care worker had been left in after a claim of abuse was made against her six years ago but never tested in court.
Farida Manji claims it was a “malicious” accusation.
He agreed that Farida Manji was unable to get a job – even at a supermarket – simply because the allegation had been kept on file and could be seen by potential employers when they ran a background check on her.
Extraordinary. And outrageous.
But the judge added that he was powerless to stop details of unproved accusations being passed to managers because the Government and police had clearly intended that they should be, in order to protect vulnerable groups.
No matter the cost!
It comes just days after The Daily Telegraph disclosed that all adults who work or volunteer with children must have abuse allegations made against them kept on file until they retire, even if they are totally groundless.
From next year, an estimated 11.3 million adults who work with under-16s must register with a new vetting body, the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which could lead to many more people driven from their jobs because of unproven claims made against them in the past.
The High Court heard yesterday (mon) that Miss Manji, from Bracebridge Heath, Lincoln, had been accused by a co-worker of abusing an elderly woman at Sancroft Hall care home in Harrow in 2002.
The Crown Prosecution Service investigated but decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute her.
In other words, there was no reasonable prospect of conviction, of convincing the court beyond reasonable doubt that she committed a crime.
So, not having been found guilty in court, she should be considered innocent, except… someone alleged she had abused an elderly woman. So she is ‘not innocent’.
- This is simply outrageous -what happened to the presumption of innocence?
- What happened to due process and the rule of law? In other words she should not suffer any disadvantage from a mere accusation, but only after having been prosecuted and found guilty by an informed and neutral party.
- What is the burden of proof (if any)?
- The scope for abuse seems enormous – it seems I could wreck someone’s future employment by merely alleging they abused a vulnerable person. A child could maliciously and baselessly accuse a teacher and bang he is out of a job with children.
However, details of the allegation have been kept on the 46-year-old’s file and made available to prospective employers who apply for an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) certificate for her.
This has meant no care home will take her on, and the court heard she cannot even get a job at Tesco because she is deemed unsuitable to work with elderly customers.
Mr Justice Blake said: “I recognise at once the dilemma she is in.
“Because of this allegation that has never gone to trial, she is unable to pursue her career in her chosen field as a care assistant because no employer is willing to employ her once they have received the police information.
And of course it is impossible for her to prove she is innocent (although I wonder if she, given money, could use law on defamation).
No, a commenter writes:
No, defamation was never an option irrespective of cost. The CRB check was not made until some 6 years after the original incident. By then it was too late to sue the person who made the original allegation and statements made in these circumstances by the Police are privileged from actions for defamation.
Back to the Telegraph:
“She submits the presumption of innocence means that where there is no adverse finding by a competent court she should not be subjected to this disadvantage.”
However, he said that the 1997 Police Act had placed officers under a duty to disclose allegations to employers, even when they had not been proved, provided they were relevant and not too historic.
The judge added: “In my judgment, it is plain that Parliament has decided in particular fields of sensitive employment that employers are entitled to enhanced certificates, and the content is very much a matter for the police service.”
He refused to allow her challenge to the current rules, saying: “Despite the difficult circumstances Miss Manji finds herself in, there are no grounds for granting judicial review.”
But why, it seems to be an affront to natural justice? I guess we will have to wait for the judgement for more detail.
Miss Manji told the court the unsubstantiated allegation had been made maliciously and said she was the victim of “a monstrous injustice”.
She pleaded in person with the judge, saying: “Please put me on trial so that I can remove the blight on my name and go back to the profession I love.”
Miss Manji now plans to take her claim to the European Court of Justice.
Terry Gore, a friend of Miss Manji who had assisted her in court, said afterwards: “This judgment means that anybody in the care field can make a malicious allegation against a fellow worker and effectively destroy their career.
“You are treated as guilty, and the legal system in this country gives you no opportunity to clear your name.”
I take the point but there is a further point: you shouldn’t have to clear your name.
What happened to the presumption of innocence?