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When Not Guilty means Guilty

The criminal standard of proof means that a jury must be ‘sure’ a defendant committed a particular before they can properly convict them.

Whereas in the civil courts the standard is the lower standard- ‘the balance of probabilities’ So that when suing someone for, say breach of contract, the case would be won by the party that had the more probable case.

What happens then if you are found Not Guilty of Rape and then apply to be a teacher?

In law the position is quite simple – a Not Guilty verdict does not mean that you are necessarily innocent, it simply means that the prosecution could not prove it to the very high standard required for a criminal conviction (and criminal sanction i.e. prison).

Therefore when Mr AR applied for a teaching post following his acquittal for raping a 17-year-old girl, the police, pursuant to an enhanced criminal record check, disclosed the fact that Mr AR had been charged and prosecuted for Rape previously. He didn’t get the job.

Mr AR then applied to be a taxi driver a year later. He didn’t get that job either, due to the fact that he had been charged and tried for Rape and this was disclosed to the licencing authority (even though he had been found Not Guilty).

As a matter of fact he had been charged and prosecuted for Rape. No doubt the police also disclosed the fact that he was found Not Guilty. The question could be put in this way, would you want your daughter being taught by a man who had previously been charged with and prosecuted for Rape of a 17-year-old girl?

Mr AR decided to take the matter to the High Court on a Judicial Review of the police decision to disclose this material. Essentially, any citizen, if affected by a decision of a public authority is entitled to have that decision reviewed by the High Court if they think it is wrong. However in order to be successful, the citizen would have to satisfy the Court the decision was ‘so unreasonable that no reasonable tribunal could have reached it’.

In this case the High Court decided that the police in all the circumstances were reasonable to have made the disclosures. A number of factors were cited by them e.g. it was a very serious allegation of a stranger rape of a drunken female passenger in Mr AR’s taxi. Although he was found Not Guilty, there was clear evidence that he was probably Guilty and indeed this is consistent with a Not Guilty verdict (indeed most Criminal Barrister’s use that exact concept in their closing speeches to the jury).

Therefore the High Court found against Mr AR. He appealed. On 10th June 2016, Lord Justice McCombe delivered the judgement of the Court of Appeal (see -The Queen (on the application of AR) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester [2016] EWCA Civ 490). In essence his lordship stated that the High Court was right to uphold the police actions in disclosing the material.

Essentially what this means is that if you are found Not Guilty of a crime and there was nonetheless compelling evidence, then the fact of the charge and the prosecution can properly be disclosed by the police in future if an enhanced police check is made. This does not mean that you are Guilty but it does mean that it is still possible or even probable that you actually did it.