Wolverhampton University 'wrong' to expel student from degree course
A pharmacy student who was wrongly thrown off his degree course by bosses at Wolverhampton University has won a High Court case against them.
The 21-year-old was ordered off the Masters course for failing to disclose on his application form two convictions for robbery and assault committed when he was 14.
The student, known only as HA to protect his identity, said he had been told by his probation officer that the convictions were 'spent' after five years and he did not have to reveal them.
But the university took a dim view of the omission and he was called before a Fitness to Practice Panel (FtPP) and expelled.
Now the High Court has ruled the university acted unfairly after 'completely ignoring' considerable mitigation in the student's favour.
His failure to reveal his past offending came to light after an induction lecture in September 2016 when it was stressed that all criminal convictions, whether spent or not, had to be disclosed.
HA had assaulted another boy, knocking out a tooth, in a schoolyard fight in 2011. At around the same time, he was one of a gang who stole credits cards and a phone from two youths in a park.
He was given rehabilitation orders and made to pay a total of £600 compensation.
The orders were revoked early after the schoolboy made 'excellent progress', according to his supervising officer, and he went on to do well in his GCSEs and A-levels.
After the induction talk, HA approached the lecturer and told him he had a conviction but was refused the opportunity to discuss the matter at the time.
He later told the FtPP panel he had filled out the form 'in a rush' after being offered the place through clearing.
He explained that the offences were the result of childish behaviour which was firmly in his past and that he thought they were no longer relevant.
He appealed against the panel's decision but his complaint was dismissed by the university, and he took the case to the High Court, sitting in Birmingham.
In his ruling, Justice Julian Knowles said the university acted as a 'gatekeeper' for the pharmacy profession and had been right to ask about convictions, including those that were spent.
"The public rightly expects that all those who may come into contact with patients, be they doctors, nurses or pharmacists, should be held to the very highest standards of behaviour," said the judge.
But he went on that the university had disregarded the fact that HA was 14 at the time, had made an attempt to be frank about his criminal record and had shown remorse about his youthful behaviour.
"The FtPP’s failure to consider the quite considerable mitigation which I consider existed was a fundamental failure. In effect, it completely ignored HA’s submissions to it."
The judge concluded: "For these reasons, the university's decision to exclude him from the MPharm course is quashed."