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Case of William – Do spent convictions relating to possession of indecent images get de-listed from internet search engines?

William contacted our helpline after he’d read about the policy work we were doing around the EU right to be forgotten issue.

Around 7 years ago, William had been convicted of possessing and making indecent images of children and received a three year community order. As a result of his conviction, he lost his job and was sure that he’d find it extremely difficult to find another. He had to find a new way of supporting himself and his family and decided that he’d try to turn one of his hobbies into a business.

William said:

“I knew that there was information about me online, but I didn’t appreciate the impact this would have on my new business. I realised that any potential customers searching online for my type of service would initially come across stories about my conviction rather than my professional business profile. This is seriously affecting my business.”

As his conviction had been spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act for a couple of years, we advised William to apply to Google to have the links to his name removed, which he duly did.

Later the same day, he received a response from Google stating that they would not be removing the links as they believed that details of his conviction remained of public interest. William felt that Google had not given adequate consideration to his request. He took his complaint to the Information Commissioners Office again setting out to them the reasons why he believed that the links to his name should be removed.

The ICO agreed with Google that the search results complied with the Data Protection Act and they would not be asking Google to remove them.

Having exhausted the current avenues available to him, William’s business continues to be affected by the links to a story about his conviction which was spent approximately 3 years ago.

Commenting on William’s experience, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“Despite a number of successes in getting convictions de-listed from search engines, it’s clear to us that it’s proving much more difficult for people with spent sexual offences, even when the offence in question was many years ago and the case wasn’t high-profile. We’re keen to hear from anyone who has managed to get these types of offences de-listed. In the meantime, there are possible legal remedies for the online publication of spent convictions, which we’re taking forward as part of our policy work.”


Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on the google effect.
  2. We have practical guidance on dealing with information on the internet, online and through search engines like Google.
  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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