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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Disclosure 'failings' lead to charity hiring sex offender

This news post is 11 months old

Children's group was not told of rapist's past - and it wants to know why

A Scottish charity has raised an alarm over the country’s disclosure system – after it inadvertently hired a man who had been charged with rape.

Morgan Prior was taken on by children’s mental health charity Place2Be in April 2021.

However, a month previously, and unbeknownst to the organisation, he had been charged with rape and sexual assault.

When hiring Prior, from Carnoustie in Angus, as a children’s mental health counsellor it carried out security checks and sought employment references.

As part of that process, it did a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check through Police Scotland’s Disclosure scheme.

Despite being charged with serious sexual offences, Prior’s check came back completely clear. Prior also did not disclose the charges when he was hired.

However, the charity only became aware of his offending when, on 5 June this year, he was convicted and subsequently jailed for more than three years for two serious sexual offences.

The charity immediately put critical incident procedures into place, and terminated Prior’s employment, and it has also carried out a review into its own processes.

It now wants to know why no alerts were raised by Disclosure Scotland when the PVG was conducted – and why there were none subsequently as Prior went through the court system.

In a statement the charity said: “In line with all organisations, our employees are required to give truthful answers to the questions put to them at application and through the interview process; and to inform their employer if they are charged with any offence. This individual did not disclose this information to us at any point.”

Disclosure Scotland has said it could only reveal information that was shared by Police Scotland, which had decided not to disclose anything about Prior.

TFN believes that nothing was disclosed because Prior was charged before being offered employment and before he had appeared in court.

Place2Be, which has notified regulator OSCR about the incident, said: “We accept that the right to a fair trial includes the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“However, we are concerned by the implications of Police Scotland choosing not to disclose the information in this case. All organisations working with children and vulnerable people will want assurance from Disclosure Scotland and Police Scotland that the PVG system is robust and fit for purpose.”

The charity wrote to Police Scotland demanding answers. Place2Be’s statement continues: “Police Scotland confirm that they considered the disclosure of Prior’s non-conviction information on various occasions and reached their decision not to disclose the information after applying their tests to the facts and having conducted a peer review.

“They confirm that there have been a number of discussions around this case and that they will conduct a wider review of the current thresholds for disclosure of non-conviction information, which will be carried out in conjunction with Disclosure Scotland. This review will also consider any learnings from the case.

“We are encouraged by this commitment and have responded to say we welcome the opportunity to offer our input into this review process.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police Scotland has confidence in the PVG scheme, and our application of the necessary tests regarding relevancy, accuracy, necessity, currency, proportionality, and the impact on the human rights of applicants, PVG scheme members and others.

“We have engaged with relevant organisations to address concerns with regards to this case.

“As a result, we are undertaking a wider review of the current thresholds for disclosure of non-conviction information, working alongside Disclosure Scotland.

“This review will consider any learning from this case, and to ensure our collective and whole system approach to disclosure of such information maintains public confidence and also reflects the most up to date case law in relation to such matters.”

As well as sparking a “wider review”, the case has led to a debate on the Disclosure system’s thresholds and safeguards.

Disclosure Scotland said: “The decision about whether to provide Disclosure Scotland with relevant non-conviction information is for Police Scotland and that decision determines what Disclosure Scotland can include on a certificate. We are working with Police Scotland to consider how this process can be strengthened.”

Tory MSP Maurice Golden spoke out, saying: “This raises serious questions about the justice system and the protection of children.

“Severe failings have been exposed and it’s time ministers took responsibility for those and set out in detail how they intend to fix them. A case like this cannot be allowed to happen again.”

In 2018, Prior featured in a BBC Scotland documentary, Love Unlimited, telling how he was in a relationship with two women and had a polyamorous lifestyle.

At the High Court in Dundee, he was found guilty of raping a woman and carrying out a serious sex attack on another in 2010.

He was cleared of other charges including an attempted rape in 2011 and an indecent assault on a girl, 16, during 2008.