Assault case teacher wins DNA battle

15th May 2009 at 01:00
Police agree to erase genetic profile after conceding his arrest was unlawful

A teacher has won a legal fight to have his DNA removed from police records after he was wrongly arrested for an alleged assault on a pupil.

Matthew Wren, a former history teacher at Washington School in Tyne and Wear, spoke of his "great relief" that his ordeal, which led him to quit teaching, has ended.

Mr Wren, 37, had been a teacher at the school for 15 years when he says he was assaulted by a pupil. But when he reported the incident to police last March, the pupil made a counter-claim of assault against him.

Mr Wren was arrested and had his DNA and fingerprints taken.

Officers rejected claims that the arrest was illegal. But last week, as Mr Wren's appeal was due to be heard by the High Court, Northumbria Police accepted it had been unlawful as Mr Wren had co-operated and voluntarily attended the police station.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, Mr Wren's union, said: "Mr Wren's case highlights the partial treatment teachers often experience when they are accused by pupils. The outcome of this case will significantly change the way teachers who are accused of assault are dealt with by the police."

Mr Wren, who now works as an accommodation officer at Durham University, said: "It is a great relief that this incident will now be removed from my police record.

"This has traumatised me so much. I was forced to leave a job I had loved for over 15 years. I would not want anyone to endure what I have been through."

Mr Wren said he was on his way to a cover lesson when he was confronted with a "riot" in a corridor.

"Out of nowhere, a child hurled himself towards me," he said. "He came at me and assaulted me with his fists. I pushed him away. It all happened in the blink of an eye."

Mr Wren, who had previously been in charge of the school's behaviour support unit, said the incident had "crossed the line" and decided to report it to the police.

But as soon as the pupil claimed he had been the victim of assault, Mr Wren was suspended.

"It was devastating," he said. "The school wanted to wash its hands of me. There was no support from the school or local authority and you are left to feel utterly expendable."

Mr Wren, who was awarded between Pounds 1,000 and Pounds 2,000 in compensation, said he did not feel any ill-will towards the pupil involved.

"What I'm still worried about is that teachers are so vulnerable when faced with allegations," he said. "I could never go back to teaching now I know how easily it can go wrong."

Paul Campbell, of Sunderland City Council's children's services, said Mr Wren had resigned before the investigation was concluded.

Details may be kept on file for 12 years

Civil liberties campaigners criticised the Government last week after it announced plans to hold the DNA profiles of innocent people for up to 12 years.

Details of suspects who are cleared or never charged will be held for six years. In cases of serious violent or sexual offences, profiles will be held for 12 years.

But following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the database in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was illegal, profiles of up to 850,000 people are to be removed.

Mick Brookes, of the NAHT heads' union, said: "We presented evidence to the Government three years ago about the damage that has been done to totally innocent colleagues.

"It's high time action was taken to ensure employment rights are not put at risk by the retention of false or misleading data."

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