A police force has apologised after officers destroyed a teacher’s career by telling his employers he was a “very dangerous paedophile” even though he had never been convicted of child sexual offences.
A judge criticised the actions of the two former officers as a “deliberate misuse of power” and accused them of “targeted malice” against Michael Curran, who he said had suffered a “personal tragedy”.
Humberside Police are expected to be ordered to pay damages and now face an estimated £500,000 legal bill following the long-running legal battle. Upholding a civil claim for malfeasance in public office, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC described the language used by the two officers as “utterly toxic”.
Mr Curran, 60, a former member of the De La Salle religious order, taught at the notorious St William’s School in Market Weighton in East Yorkshire in the 1980s. The school, which looked after boys aged 10 to 16 with emotional and behavioural problems, has been at the centre of three police inquiries into historic child abuse following its closure in 1992, which resulted in the jailing of its former principal and chaplain.
Mr Curran was arrested in 2002 and detectives investigating indecent assault allegations against him seized computers at a pre-exclusion unit in Liverpool where he worked. Charges of making and possessing indecent images of children were later dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service and he was formally acquitted in December 2003.
The evidence against him was found to be “very weak” and the images not to be illegal. He was never charged with the indecent assault allegations.
The two officers from Humberside Police attended an information sharing meeting with his new local authority employers. An earlier Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation concluded that as well as referring to him as a “very dangerous paedophile”, one of the officers also described him as “plausible but dangerous”, as being “guilty as sin” and “going down spitting and screaming” after he followed legal advice and did not enter a plea at an earlier court hearing.
Mr Curran was later sacked and has not worked in education since. Neither of the officers has been named and have now left the force.
Judge Richardson QC found the officers had acted unlawfully following an earlier trial at Hull County Court. He said: “I am convinced, upon the evidence before me, that after the acquittal of the claimant in the crown court, officers (certainly one and probably the other) acted with targeted malice towards the claimant.
“It must be remembered the comments were made in the context of a formal meeting where information was exchanged and would have consequences. It was a deliberate misuse of the power the officers possessed, to harm him.”
One of the officers was also criticised in an IPCC report which found the comments made during the meeting to be “unprofessional and unguarded” and “highly prejudicial”.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Leaver said: “Humberside Police apologise unreservedly to Mr Curran for the way in which the disclosure was made in these circumstances, the form that it took and for the personal consequences of this for him.”
Following its closure in 1992, more than 200 former pupils have come forward claiming to have been systematically assaulted while resident at St Williams’ school.
Former principal, James Carragher was jailed for seven years in 1993 for his part in the abuse and for a further 14 years following a 2001 investigation in which he was found guilty of buggery and indecent assault against 22 boys, the youngest of which was aged 12. Father Anthony McCallen, the school chaplain, was also jailed for three and a half years for offences against children.