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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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if a charity in an internal review refuses to inform the police

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if a charity in an internal review refuses to inform the police of a serious criticism of their conduct what should an individual do who is privy to that criticism?
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
-Could you explain your situation a little more?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The charity is a church. I gave evidence to this internal review. I was not told that I would not be able to relay the findings of the review if I considered they needed further action to be taken. It has emerged that the Review revealed an issue about child protection and advice given by a police officer. The church review criticised the police for the advice given but the church will not now give the review to the police to enable the police to read that criticism in full for themselves. I regard that criticism as spelling out a serious failing. The church is now seeking to let the matter be soft-pedalled by the church official who wrote the review. That contact with the police will treat the issue as having been simply 'a learning point'. I strongly disagree with this position. I wish to know, please, if I have a defence in law - say, relating to 'public interest' - if I my self inform the police that they have been criticised?

I'm sorry if I'm missing the point but why would the review be of interest to the police?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your question. The police should be informed of the serious criticism of their advice by the Review so that they can either defend their advice (and its consequences) or improve their procedures.

In what way would that change the procedures of the police?
People criticise them all the time sometimes with merit and sometimes without.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The advice of the police related to whether a convicted sex offender - now out of prison - should be allowed to work in a church cafe. The advice gave the all-clear - under certain conditions which are not known to the writer of the review. Yet that advice has been criticised in the review - and it has led to a child being in the presence of the offender.

Unless the police are able to read this review they are not fully able either to accept or reject the criticism.

No, but they are not likely to read it anyway to be wholly honest.
If there are complaints about the police then they need to be pursued at the IPCC. Its very unlikely they would have the remotest interest in a review by a Church.
If you intent then you could always get a solicitor to write to them demanding a copy of the review. In truth, you could go any further than that because there is no legal action that could be taken and so no court would issue an injunction forcing them to hand it over.
The other alternative is a subject access request if you are named in the review but they would not be under any obligation to comply as they are not a public body unless this is a Church of England Church and, in any event, they could probably refuse on the basis of confidentiality of the other parties concerned.
I'm very sorry but I have to give you truthful information.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes, thank you for that candour.

I do, however, feel that the church has behaved with moral cowardice in failing to let the police know that the church considers their conduct to have essentially led to a situation where a child was placed in danger - when the church is meant to be a safe place following proper procedures.

Is there not a defence of 'public interest' if the police were told by an individual (if necessary, anonymously) that they had been seriously criticised in this review? - in such a way as to slide away from the church's own responsibilities?

Well, you can tell the police about this. Nobody can stop you doing that. You are not under any duty of confidentiality.
The police don't have any grounds to seize the review though.
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