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Man cleared of sexual abuse of schoolgirl loses legal battle against PSNI disclosure in job applications

By Alan Erwin

Published 26/02/2016

A man has lost his High Court case to prevent PSNI for discussing details of the sex abuse case against a schoolgirl of which he was cleared.
A man has lost his High Court case to prevent PSNI for discussing details of the sex abuse case against a schoolgirl of which he was cleared.

A man cleared of sexually abusing a schoolgirl has lost a legal battle to stop the PSNI disclosing details of the case in his applications to work with children.

The High Court ruled today that the planned interference with his private life represents a proportionate step.

Even though he identified flaws in the police decision making process, Mr Justice Maguire held that disclosure was necessary to secure the objective of protecting young people.

The 25-year-old man at the centre of the challenge cannot be named for legal reasons.

He was charged with 11 separate sexual offences against a girl when she was aged between 12 and 14.

She claimed they had been in a relationship from August 2008 to November 2009, which involved having sex in his car and at his mother's house while she was away on holiday.

He denied all allegations, insisting their friendship was platonic and that he was a brother figure to her.

In 2013 a jury at Belfast Crown Court unanimously acquitted the man of every charge after hearing evidence from both him and his accuser.

Nearly a year later he applied for two jobs involving contact with children: as a care assistant at a specialist school, and a community organisation volunteer.

Due to the type of work he had to obtain an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate listing any convictions and information police believe relevant enough for inclusion.

The PSNI decided it should disclose details of his prosecution and acquittal.

Lawyers for the man mounted a judicial review challenge to the move, claiming it was unfair, unreasonable and breached his rights to private and family life under European law.

Delivering judgment in the case, Mr Justice Maguire said it had been "unacceptable" for police not to pursue the Public Prosecution Service for more information and reasons on the outcome of the criminal trial.

Despite his criticisms, however, the judge held that the proposed disclosure is justified.

He recognised that including details on the certificate will probably represent a "killer blow" to the man's job prospects.

But with the jury having decided the case against him was proved beyond reasonable doubt, Mr Justice Maguire pointed to the police belief that the allegations were accurate.

Concern was also expressed over the man's response to two claims by the girl: that they had sex in his mother's home, and that he had used a cloth or sock to clean himself after intercourse in the back of his car.

With his accuser able to map out the interior of the house, the judge noted that he changed his version of events after first claiming she was never inside the property.

The court also heard traces of semen were found on a sock discovered in the man's car - although it was not possible to establish a definite DNA match with him.

Despite acknowledging the importance of the not guilty verdict, Mr Justice Maguire ruled on balance that the police decision was not disproportionate.

Dismissing the judicial review application, he said: "The court cannot avoid the conclusion that the interference in respect of the applicant's private life which the making of the disclosure which is now proposed will bring about is other than necessary to secure the objective of protection of young people and children, which is the legitimate aim served by the statutory scheme."

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