Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum submitted by Mike Matthews (PF 52)

Public comments on the Freedom Bill

Ref: restricts the scope of the 'vetting and barring' scheme for protecting vulnerable groups and makes changes to the system of criminal records checks

Most of the public replies you receive will undoubtedly come from people like myself , who have had to fight tooth and nail to get our reputations back. My stories should be salutary lessons why amendments made to the information processed should be strictly controlled.

I am an ex-teacher who has a special interest in crb reforms, being victim of the enhanced crb debâcle with limited right to appeal beyond the ICO, and unlawful use of enhanced crbs to filter staff used by a former employer.

I have never been convicted of a criminal offence. I have no warnings, cautions or reprimands. However, I have a large cancerous growth on my character – my enhanced crb. This growth states I was charged but found not guilty of downloading indecent images. It makes no reference to the reporting of sites I made and the context in which the images appeared – they were pre-cached without my knowledge. Since then, I have had ISA clearance to work with children. However, the trauma of what I went through meant I could never consider working with kids again. I am now a successful adult tutor with the reputation I once had in the primary sector, but with a big stigma attached to my character by the ecrb disclosure.

I have asked the police to amend my enhanced crb, but the Chief Constable of Leicestershire, Simon Cole, has repeatedly refused stating there are no grounds to, even when the evidence is presented to him. He has denied that I made reports to the IWF about paedophilia even when the pre-trial Court hearing acknowledged the reports could be attributed to me. I am having to go through the ICO to get this looked at and hopefully amended, and a filial lawyer is taking up my case.

Furthermore, I used to work for Working Links, who sacked me because of these allegations appearing on my enhanced crb, even though I had an excellent work record and I did not work with children. Working Links had, like many firms, applied for blanket enhanced crbs and in the end, I got them to pay money to 5 charities helping ex-offenders for me desisting from a press campaign. In the meantime, they had suspended me and made me have a medical to see if I was of fit mind to work with children ! Can you believe it ? I worked with adults, I made a huge difference to their job prospects and the company acknowledged this, but I had to undergo a punitive investigation where my suitability to do the job came into question, all because they had unlawfully put on the application ‘ Working with children’…and even if I had, the ISA had cleared me ! No matter, once they see things on your enhanced crb , they make prejudicial judgements. It changes, affects, ruins lives !

I also work in an adult sector where firms who fund adult courses insist on enhanced crbs even though there is no contact with children, and they dictate the status of what a vulnerable adult is, not the law !

They say the unemployed are per se vulnerable ! Why don’t they just say all students are vulnerable !

It is imperative that the legislation you draw up considers the following:

Soft evidence is banned

If not, soft evidence is used only if the ISA raise concerns over working with children or vulnerable adults

Firms cannot apply for blanket enhanced crb checks, and if they do, they are financially penalised

It is imperative that we protect the most vulnerable in society, especially children. I could not agree more. However, the legislation the Labour Party drew up was too draconian, lacked balance and effectively punished people like me with no stain on our character. The pre-trial hearing I attended in 2008 made reference to the honourable nature of my reporting to the IWF; my good character; my decency. No mention of that when the ecrbs come into play! Working Links lost the East Midlands contract and if the DWP had know the extent to which they were breaking the law, they are lucky to have even got the morsels of the Future Jobs programme they have recently. I thank Andrew Robathan for the support he gave me to get Working Links to think again about how they use crb checks, though I have no proof they have changed as they said they would. Nevertheless, it condemned a good person like me to agony and despair that should not have happened.

The police state they have a ‘duty’ to report soft information on enhanced disclosures. How can that be just, when someone has clearance from the ISA, so their comments are irrelevant, aren’t they ? Soft ‘evidence’ has, and will continue, to blight the careers of many. FYI, I was deemed an inspirational teacher, and my Ofsted-observed lesson one of the top 3 in 200 inspections, yet I could not set foot near a school with the comments on my ecrb ! This must be stopped, as it is hard enough getting men into teaching.

Whatever you do, keep protection in but get rid of soft evidence. If you are innocent you are innocent !

If the ISA say you are not barred, why should soft evidence bar you?

April 2011