Headteacher sues police over unfounded sex abuse allegations

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The Independent Online

A former primary school headteacher launched a legal challenge yesterday to prevent police releasing details of unproved child abuse claims that are ruining his career.

A former primary school headteacher launched a legal challenge yesterday to prevent police releasing details of unproved child abuse claims that are ruining his career.

He is suing the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire police forces for damages after being denied a job as head of a nursery school in a test case that goes to the heart of the right to privacy in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The nursery school job offer from Warwickshire County Council was withdrawn after the head, known as Mr A, failed a police check, the High Court was told. The teacher had earlier been forced out of a job as head of a Church of England primary school after a "smear campaign". He was cleared after an investigation, but the allegations were passed on to his new employers, Mr Justice Turner was told.

The teacher, who is backed by the National Association of Head Teachers, claims the police broke the Data Protection Act and released details of allegations without allowing him to see or rebut the claims.

Gerard Clarke, appearing for Mr A, said the teacher was "vulnerable to prejudice and suspicion" because he was gay and called for an injunction on further releases of information.

Mr A had no criminal record, apart from a motoring offence, and had never been charged with any offence involving children. But he had been the victim of two false allegations of abusing children, the court was told. Mr Clarke said that Mr A had a right to be considered innocent until proved guilty. No information passed on by the police outweighed the teacher's right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights, he said.

Instead, the disclosure had caused immeasurable financial harm, Mr Clarke said. "In making a decision as to disclosure, the police are required to examine the facts and to carry out the exercise of balancing public interest in the need to protect children against the need to safeguard the right of an individual to a private life," he told the court.

In the first case, in 1996, a parent made an allegation against the headteacher while he was working at a school near Herne Bay, Kent, the court was told. But he was cleared after investigations by Kent police and the county council and was assured that details of the allegations would not be raised in future police checks.

The second incident occurred in February 1998 while Mr A was head of a Church of England primary school in Gloucestershire. In that case, Mr Clarke said, allegations of abuse came from a teacher whom Mr A had been asked to monitor by school governors. Once again, the allegations were investigated and no further action was taken, the court was told.

But Mr A said he had become the victim of a "smear campaign" which culminated in him facing charges that he had thrown a stone at her window. The case collapsed without a trial in 1998 but by that time Mr A had lost his job.

The hearing continues.

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