My HRA: Rachael Cox

Posted by Ian McDonald on 01 February 2013

It’s been a busy week for CRB checks, with the Court of Appeal ruling that automatic disclosure of all convictions and cautions is incompatible with the Human Rights Act. So today, the latest blog on our new series of Common Values films features mother-of-five Rachael Cox, whose life was blighted by the CRB system.

In 2007, Rachael took her children to play in a quiet, safe local park. Her son Joe reminded her he had a birthday party, so they headed to a nearby shop to buy a gift. Rachael left daughter Grace, nearly 10, in charge while she was gone. “When I returned 10 minutes later they were all still playing happily,” she says.

However, two Police Community Support Officers told Rachael she’d been spotted “abandoning” her children on CCTV. She went home, thinking nothing more of it, but when she was approached 18 months later to do voluntary work with schoolchildren by her local vicar, the experience resurfaced.

“I was absolutely horrified when the CRB disclosure came back and it had this incident in the park,” she recalls. “It was phrased in such a judgmental, opinionated way; it was completely damning.” The information wasn’t even accurate – the ages and sex of Rachael’s children were wrong, and it claimed she’d been gone for half an hour. “I felt embarrassed, I felt ashamed and I felt humiliated,” she explains. “This had gone to the vicar of the local church.”

She decided not to pursue the matter legally, but when she later applied for voluntary work at her local library, the incident emerged on her CRB check again. “I was absolutely appalled,” she says. “It came back at the end of the summer holidays, in October, when I’d had access to the children for six weeks. It made a mockery of the whole system.”

Rachael got in touch with Liberty and we contacted Wiltshire Police. “Liberty explained to me that under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act I have a right to a private and family life,” she recalls. “I understand they’re allowed to release some information about people, obviously, to keep the community safe, but they shouldn’t have released this information and they shouldn’t really be storing it on me.”

Wiltshire Police offered to include a note on the disclosure saying Rachael was a good parent. But with our help, she persevered. “If you’ve read this damning CRB disclosure, you’re hardly going to take any notice of one sentence at the end,” she says. Finally the force backed down. “They realised that this had been a violation of my human rights – Article 8 – and they did remove it,” she adds.

This was a hardworking, innocent mother who hadn’t committed any crime – yet police still felt compelled to store, and refuse to remove, such misleading information on her record. Thankfully she was able to rely upon Article 8 of the HRA – food for thought for anyone who thinks repealing the legislation is a bright idea.