Saturday, August 23, 2014

Police chiefs call for secrecy around records

TORONTO—People who have had contact with police in Ontario that did not end in a conviction should no longer fear release of the potentially sensitive information during standard record checks under updated guidelines released yesterday.
Civil liberties, mental-health and other advocacy groups praised the updated approach urged by the Ontario Association of Police Chiefs as a significant step toward protecting innocent people from the harm such disclosure can cause, but said legislation is needed to force compliance.

“We know that thousands of people are being impacted by the disclosure of non-conviction records, and we know that people are being discriminated against when employers and volunteer agencies receive these types of records on police checks,” said Abby Deshman, program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
“These guidelines ... will provide a great level of protection to many people across Ontario if implemented,” she added.
The revised guidelines call on police to no longer disclose apprehensions under mental-health laws or related information—such as suicide attempts—under any circumstances. In addition, police contacts with members of the public that do not lead to criminal convictions will no longer be routinely disclosed.
An exceptional disclosure mechanism applies to those working or volunteering with children or others considered to be vulnerable.
For example, non-conviction records could be disclosed in cases where someone has faced multiple accusations of fraud against the elderly or sexual abuse of children, under the new guidelines.
The changes reflect years of concern by human-rights, privacy, prisoner and mental-health advocates.
The civil liberties association said it had heard from more than 100 people over the past year who had phoned 911 for help with mental-health crises and then lost their jobs, were forced out of school or barred from volunteering when police disclosed that information as a result of record checks.

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