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Case of Monica

Monica didn’t have a great start in life. She was in care from the age of 2 and she didn’t go to a great school, leaving with no qualifications. Fighting was part of her language – she used violence to settle disputes and disagreements. This worked for Monica amongst her peers, but not when she tried to use the same strategy outside in the real world soon after she turned 18; people immediately called the police and Monica ended up with a conviction for ‘Threats to kill’ under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, for which she received a conditional discharge.

Later on Monica managed to find employment in the public sector. Her professional body wasn’t informed of her conviction and she was not asked about it. The years passed and she became more and more successful. She’d learned to slow down her speech, she was careful not to swear and she learnt not to use her eye gaze to challenge people.

For 30 years Monica worked hard and did extremely well, until the rules changed and people in her sector were required to undergo regular criminal record checks (every three years). Monica handed in her notice. She couldn’t run the risk of being found out.

She then set up her own company to enable her to continue working in the sector. As she was self-employed Monica didn’t have to be DBS-checked so her past never came to light. However, after about 7 years the rules changed again and when she started to tender for contracts, she would often be told that she would need a criminal record check.

That’s when Monica turned to Unlock. We advised Monica that if she wanted to go back into a paid role in the profession she loved, she would have to be honest and open about her past; legally it would then be up to each organisation to decide if they thought a past mistake, 35 years before, was relevant today.

Monica couldn’t do it. She was not confident to disclose her conviction so she went into retirement. She said:

“I felt cornered. The decision was made for me, I left the world of work, a move I would never have made on my own. I would have worked until I dropped, work defined me but I’m just not brave enough to put myself in a position where I have to be judged again


Although I’m now effectively retired, I did get away with not disclosing my conviction … I’m just paying for it now.”


Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on challenging the DBS ‘filtering’ process.
  2. We have practical guidance on filtering of spent cautions/convictions – a simple guide.
  3. Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
  4. Other policy cases are listed here.

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