Sexual abuse of children
The sexual abuse of children is an extremely important issue of any society to deal with so where there is any form of allegation that an individual has been involved in this kind of activity then it must be taken serious by a UK employer.
Clearly this issue becomes even more apparent when the individual involved works with children but often an employer will not want to have their reputation tarnished by employing an individual who has a case of this type pending.
Would this apply simply to a case in the UK?
In most cases the allegation is likely to come from the UK courts or UK criminal justice system if the individual involved is from the UK and seeking employment in the UK.
However, in some cases the allegation will come from abroad and will still have to be treated seriously if it is believed that the individual poses a significant threat to society.
This is an issue which has become apparent in a recent case.
What were the facts of this case?
The facts of the case concerned an individual who had obtained a job working for a local authority and following the confirmation of his job was to travel to Cambodia to undertake work in an orphanage.
However, during his time in Cambodia he was arrested on suspicion of having sexually abused some of the children at the orphanage.
Was the individual charged in this case?
The individual was not charged in this case as following investigations by the Cambodian authorities the prosecutor’s recommended that his file be held without processing which under the laws of the Asian country effectively means that it was an acquittal.
What happened when the individual returned back to the UK?
Following the first acquittal when the individual returned back to the UK he took up his post with the local authority as had always been the plan before his trip to Cambodia. The individual did not explain to his new employer what happened.
Was this the end of the case?
The original acquittal was not the end of the story as there were two further hearings in which acquittals were granted in both.
The individual felt that he was being persecuted by a Cambodian Campaign group and sent a number of emails to government departments complaining about this – some of which the content was ill-judged on the individual’s behalf.
These emails were sent from his work email address which brought the facts of the case into the knowledge of his employer which issued him a written warning concerning his email content.
Did the employer believe that he was guilty of these charges?
The employer did not believe that the individual was guilty of the charges – the written warning was simply concerning the content of the emails.
Did anything further happen in this case?
Following on from this the Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Command (CAIC) contacted the employer raising allegations against their employee relating to his contact with children which went substantially beyond what the respondent already knew. The main aspect of the communications from the CAIC was that the individual posed a continuing threat to children.
Did this affect his employment status?
The individual was invited to a disciplinary hearing and was shown notes of the conversations with the CAIC. The individual denied the allegations.
The employer felt that they had to accept the statements from the CAIC that he still posed a continuing threat to children and accordingly this constituted a breach of trust and confidence meaning that he would be dismissed with immediate effect.
Did the individual appeal the case?
The individual appealed the case which was dismissed. The individual then brought the case to an employment tribunal.
What was the decision of the employment tribunal?
The employment tribunal felt that when an employer receives information from a body such as the CAIC relating to such allegations then these allegations must be taken extremely seriously. If an employer takes an uncritical view of this kind of information then they will be deemed not to be acting reasonably.
The employment tribunal then felt that it had to examine whether the information provided was enough to warrant a dismissal.
Did they feel that this was enough to warrant a dismissal?
Despite the fact that the individual would not be working directly with children and the conduct did not happen while he was at work the employment tribunal held that it was reasonable for the employer to dismiss him in order to protect their reputation.
Is sacking someone on the grounds of loss of trust and confidence a satisfactory position?
The employment tribunal felt that citing loss of trust and confidence is not always a desirable position when dealing with dismissal and could potentially lead to a number of problems. It was felt that an employer would be better relying on Section 98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 which states that an employer has to be clear about the reasons for dismissal and show that the reason is sufficient to justify the dismissal.
This case does clearly show that information relating to an alleged case of child sex abuse from another country can be used as a reason for dismissing an employee in the UK. However, it may only become apparent when the information is provided by a source which is regarded as reliable such as the CAIC and not when the information comes from a source such as a pressure group located in that other country.