As the custodians of some of the most sensitive personal data which exists about any of us – whether or not we have a clean criminal record, or if we do have convictions or cautions, what they relate to – the Police owe an unparalleled duty to protect such data and only disclose it to appropriate parties with the utmost accuracy. Incorrect criminal records data could have a devastating effect upon a person’s life, and in this respect I am minded to think of a client of mine who almost suffered catastrophic consequences to his career as a result of bungling by British Transport Police.
My client, who for the purposes of this blog I will identify as “David”, was still in high school when he came to the attention of British Transport Police (BTP) at the age of 15, in relation to a minor criminal damage offence.
In March 2010 David, in the presence of his mother, accepted a Reprimand for criminal damage. Reprimands (now known as Youth Cautions) were in 2010 a form of verbal warning delivered by Police officers in respect of minor offences. Any Reprimand or Caution can only be administered by the Police if the suspect admits to the offence: in that respect, therefore, it is almost a form of ‘back door’ conviction. By its very nature, it is generally only suitable to ‘low level’ offences.
David went on with his life and graduated from University.
Then, in early 2020 David applied for an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check in connection with his new job. He was a young man of good character, having had no further adverse interactions with the Police since 2010. One of the key roles of the DBS is the maintenance of the Children’s and Adult’s Barred Lists, which identify individuals who should be prohibited from jobs in which they might pose a risk of harm to vulnerable individuals.
However, what should have been a routine bureaucratic exercise turned into an experience verging on nightmare for David, because in February 2020 the Disclosure and Barring Service gave David and his employers notice that it was proposed that he be included on the Children’s Barred List and Adults Barred List in light of an alleged Reprimand said to have been issued in March 2010 for the offence of “Making an indecent photograph or pseudo photograph of a child” contrary to S.1 (a) Protection of Children Act 1978.
David was in a state of shock, and spoke to his father for advice. His father was good friends with a solicitor who recommended my services. Upon review, it became clear that the information which the DBS received, which led them to believe that my client had been reprimanded for the said offence and hence should be included on the Barred List, was provided to them by British Transport Police.
David knew he was innocent of this offence and couldn’t understand how this had happened. To his horror he was now facing the potentially life-long stigma of being labelled a paedophile, as well as losing his current job and having his future employment prospects severely blighted by the appearance of his name upon the Barred Lists.
As part of my investigations on behalf of David, I made a Subject Access Request to BTP and received documentation confirming that the only offence he had ever been Reprimanded for was indeed ‘criminal damage’, he had no reprimands, cautions or convictions in relation to any sexual offence whatsoever.
The information apparently provided by BTP to the DBS in January 2020, which stated that David had admitted and received a reprimand for the said sexual offence was entirely inaccurate and without foundation.
The DBS then, quite rightly, withdrew the proposal to include David’s name upon the Barred Lists (although not until he had undergone almost 3 months of stress and anxiety).
Having therefore helped to clear David’s name with the DBS, and ensure he did not lose his job, I then brought a claim against British Transport Police on David’s behalf, for this gross mishandling of his sensitive personal data.
I am pleased to confirm that I have recently concluded David’s claim on the basis of a payment of damages in the sum of £10,000, together with his legal costs.
We should all be entitled to trust that the Police will exercise the utmost care and attention when providing disclosure reports to the DBS, especially regarding matters which could blight the subject’s personal relationships and employment prospects. Thankfully, the error here was identified and corrected before it had gone too far; if not David could have been left to pick up the pieces of a career ruined by slip-shod Police administration.
The name of my client has been changed.