Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Court rules on vetting safeguards

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The safeguarding agency will provide a single point for checking staff

New vetting checks designed to protect children and vulnerable people carry a "real risk" of undermining public confidence, the Supreme Court has said.

The court gave its ruling in the case of a playground assistant who lost her job because police disclosed she had been accused of neglecting her child.

The court said police were right to disclose allegations in this case, but said more care was needed in future.

There should be greater concern for the impact on a person's rights, it said.

One of the five judges who heard the case, Lord Neuberger, suggested the ruling had implications for the government's new compulsory registration scheme for people working with children.

Right to respect

He said the procedures would be counter-productive unless they were "proportionate" and contained "adequate safeguards".

The nursery worker - known as "L" - was required to undergo a criminal record check after she got her job.

When police revealed to the school she had been accused of neglecting her child and non-cooperation with social services, she was fired.

At a time when more people than ever before have been made subject to CRB checks... this judgment strikes a welcome note of caution and fairness
Anna Fairclough, Liberty

She claimed that the police disclosure violated her right to respect for her private life under the Human Rights Act.

The court ruled that in her case "the allegation was directly relevant to her employment and the school was entitled" to be told.

But its judgement also said that in deciding to disclose information to an employer "the police must give due weight to the applicant's right to respect for her private life".

John Ford, the solicitor who represented "L", said: "While I am disappointed that my client was unsuccessful in this case, she will be pleased that the point of principle has been established that means that people in her position will have far more protection in the future.

"This has been a long battle through courts and common sense has prevailed. Proper guidance now needs to be provided by central government."

The civil rights campaign group Liberty said the ruling had brought "some wisdom and balance to the current frenzy around employment vetting".

Anna Fairclough, legal officer for Liberty, said: "At a time when more people than ever before have been made subject to CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks, and the police seek to hold information forever, this judgment strikes a welcome note of caution and fairness.

"Our children are better protected by a rational and balanced scheme than by one that disclosed gossip and rumour without safeguards."

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