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Some examples of people we’ve helped

Looking back over the last couple of months, we’ve written up a few examples of the people we’ve helped.

We hope they give a good idea of how we help people.

More importantly, we think that these examples show how people with convictions are able to overcome some of the barriers that have been put in their way due to their criminal record.

We’ve posted the examples below as case studies in the support section of our website:

 

 

Barney – The discrimination I faced by insurers following my conviction was a real eye opener

Hilario – Being clear on disclosure rules allowed me to get settled status in the UK

StephanieHaving failed to get Google to remove links to my name an application to the ICO proved more successful

 

Some examples of people we’ve helped

Looking back over the last couple of months, we’ve written up a few examples of the people we’ve helped.

We hope they give a good idea of how we help people.

More importantly, we think that these examples show how people with convictions are able to overcome some of the barriers that have been put in their way due to their criminal record.

We’ve posted the examples below as case studies in the support section of our website:

 

 

Jaxon – I used Unlock’s list of insurance brokers to get public liability insurance

Maryam – I successfully challenged the police over the disclosure of my filtered caution

TommyA call to the Unlock helpline led to my conviction becoming spent and a new job

 

Monthly update – March 2021

We’ve just published our update for March 2021.

This months update includes:

  1. New information on sexual offence convictions: what you need to know.
  2. An advice post setting out what you do (and do not) need to disclose when applying for a job with probation.
  3. personal story which looks at the true cost of an IPP sentence. 
  4. link to a discussion on theForum from an individual looking for advice on applying for a visa to visit the USA.
  5. A link to a report published by Unlock on the impact of criminal records on women.

The full update provides a summary of:

  1. the latest updates to our self-help information site for people with convictions
  2. recent posts to our online magazine, theRecord
  3. discussions on our online forum
  4. other news and developments that might be of interest to individuals with a criminal record.

Read the March 2021 update in full.

Best wishes,

Unlock

Notes

  • All previous updates can be found in full in the ‘Latest updates’ section of our Information Hub
  • For more self-help information, please visit unlock.devchd.com/information-and-advice/
  • If you have any questions about this information, please contact our helpline
  • If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up to receive these updates directly by clicking here and selecting to receive ‘News/updates for people with convictions’
  • If you have found this information use, please leave us your feedback and/or consider making a donation.

Some examples of people we’ve helped

Looking back over the last couple of months, we’ve written up a few examples of the people we’ve helped.

We hope they give a good idea of how we help people.

More importantly, we think that these examples show how people with convictions are able to overcome some of the barriers that have been put in their way due to their criminal record.

We’ve posted the examples below as case studies in the support section of our website:

 

Asher – Unlock helped me to get links to online information about my conviction removed

Donald – Getting support from Unlock to challenge an ineligible DBS check allowed me to keep my job with the NHS

OmarBeing told that I might be placed on a DBS barred list made me relive my conviction 24 years later

 

An insight into Northern Ireland’s consultation on spending periods

The Northern Irish government has just completed their initial consultation on changing spending periods for criminal offences, spurred by a judicial review brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC). While that is outside of Unlock’s normal catchment area, we have been following the case closely and working with our colleagues at NIACRO to try and make the most of this opportunity for change.

While any real changes in Northern Ireland are still some way off, this is a good opportunity to talk about the nature of government consultations, and what we can learn from Northern Ireland.

The biggest take away is that strategic litigation really is an effective tool in creating change, and vindicates Unlock’s goal to continue using it. The NIHRC case is extremely meaningful in its own right, but even before the arguments have been heard Stormont have rushed to address some of the concerns. Whatever decision is reached, this one case will result in meaningful changes that impact thousands of people. This is extremely encouraging, and Unlock was happy to support the NIHRC case.

Next, the policy options that the Northern Irish government consulted on were an interestingly mixed bag. Northern Ireland hasn’t had a significant change for spending periods since 1978, and Stormont is not required to follow along with England and Wales, so it’s understandable they have come up with their own options – but they were still a bit odd.

They did offer two possible reforms to address concerns about longer sentences never becoming spent. However, each one was only half of the proposed version in England and Wales. Option one was to simply raise the threshold for a sentence that can’t become spent from two and a half to four years. This update would match the present England and Wales system, but not include any changes from the sentencing bill.

The other proposal was to allow some longer sentences to become spent, depending on the conviction – but offences classified as violent, sexual or terrorism related would still have to be disclosed for life if the sentence was longer than two and a half years.

The proposed version in England and Wales is to use a list of offences and a longer threshold for lifelong spending, and it was not initially clear why Stormont would break these two aspects apart. If they were going to follow the England and Wales system, it would make more sense to copy it fully. However, Unlock sat in on some of the Department of Justice’s feedback sessions, and it seems that the concern for the civil servants is drawing up reforms that can be actually be passed through parliament.

To some degree that is disappointing, because a really ambitious set of reforms seems unlikely. At the same time, we do need to stay grounded to this reality. Reforms are unlikely to go as far as we might like, and both MPs and the general public might well be less well informed than we might hope. However, positive reforms are still positive, and we should be aiming to make them happen. It might not be ideal, but changes that actually happen help more people than those which are too radical to be accepted.

Another interesting factor in Northern Ireland is that certain terms have a different meaning, highlighting that language can be much more politicised than we might think. In England and Wales, ‘terrorism’ is a little contentious but in Northern Ireland that is an extremely emotive term, with decades of history and injustice behind it. We don’t even have to leave the UK to see that the question of who exactly is a terrorist is not easily answered.

This is even more relevant because most conflict-related convictions are really quite old at this point, and so would immediately become spent if they were ever eligible. That means that charging decisions made in the 1960s would come back to haunt the justice system yet again, with questions about unequal application of the law to different communities.

This same effect is just as true with the other categories of offences that will be exempt from becoming spent. What is a violent crime? And what is a sexual offence? In Northern Ireland the Department of Justice at least intend to write a new list to address this, which is something. In England and Wales, the government are proposing to use a pre-existing list drawn from 20 year-old legislation. Again, you do not have to travel far to see how these dodgy definitions will cause problems, and may create systematic injustices.

The flurry of activity in Northern Ireland is a microcosm of what we are seeing in Westminster, and helps to show how even relatively small differences actually become huge concerns for this area of law. Simple rules that reduce the length of spending periods are clearly better than the periods we have at the moment – both in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland – but we can already see the difficulties in applying them on a large scale.

It seems increasingly clear that whatever changes are made to either system in the coming year, there is going to be a lot more work to do. We are seeing more and more that very broad categories just don’t work well and that we need a real paradigm shift. Creating an independent review mechanism seems the obvious first step, although few politicians ever want answers that will cost them money.

Unlock will continue to push for these changes until all people with criminal records the chance to live a normal life. It may be a hard fight, but we do believe it can be won.

Written by Sam Doohan, Policy Officer for Unlock.

 

Further reading

  1. NIHRC challenge spending law
  2. Department of Justice consultation
  3. NIACRO’s website

Monthly update – January 2021

We’ve just published our update for January 2021.

This months update includes:

  1. An advice post on changes to immigration rules and travel to Europe from 1 January 2021.
  2. personal story from an individual who has benefitted from changes to the filtering rules which came into effect in November 2020 and now has a clean DBS certificate. 
  3. link to a discussion on theForum from an individual looking for advice on disclosing his conviction for a role involving an enhanced DBS check.
  4. A link to Unlocks Annual Report 2019-20.
  5. Details of a new vacancy at Unlock for the role of Chief Executive Officer.

The full update provides a summary of:

  1. the latest updates to our self-help information site for people with convictions
  2. recent posts to our online magazine, theRecord
  3. discussions on our online forum
  4. other news and developments that might be of interest to individuals with a criminal record.

Read the January 2021 update in full.

Best wishes,

Unlock

Notes

  • All previous updates can be found in full in the ‘Latest updates’ section of our Information Hub
  • For more self-help information, please visit unlock.devchd.com/information-and-advice/
  • If you have any questions about this information, please contact our helpline
  • If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up to receive these updates directly by clicking here and selecting to receive ‘News/updates for people with convictions’
  • If you have found this information use, please leave us your feedback and/or consider making a donation.

Some examples of people we’ve helped

Looking back over the last couple of months, we’ve written up a few examples of the people we’ve helped.

We hope they give a good idea of how we help people.

However, more importantly than our role, we think that these examples show how people with convictions are able to overcome some of the barriers that have been put in their way due to their criminal record.

We’ve posted the examples below as case studies in the support section of our website:

 

 

Grace – Having a better understanding of criminal record check eligibility gave me the confidence to challenge an ineligible check

Noah – Getting the right information and advice from Unlock meant that I could continue with my university course

TerryOpening a bank account has finally made me feel ‘normal’ again

 

 

 

 

Pardons for historic gay convictions: a call for evidence

It is quite rare for any government to admit to some historic wrongdoing, and even more so to take some concrete efforts to tackle it. When the government announced that it would be creating a process for gay and bisexual men to have their certain convictions removed from the record, this was a unique opportunity to right many historic wrongs.

However, the reality hasn’t lived up to the potential. To gain a pardon, people have to apply for one, which hugely limits the scheme’s reach. Many eligible people don’t know the pardons exist, and the vast majority of men who were persecuted for being gay or bi are not willing to trust the government to handle cases privately and sensitively.

We want to hear from people who were prosecuted for historic gay offences and who have not yet applied for a pardon.

Click here to share your story.

What is eligible?

Only convictions under sections 12 and 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 are eligible – “buggery” and “gross indecency” – and only if the charge would not be illegal under another law today. For example, charges for sexual activity in public cannot be pardoned because they would still be illegal, even though this kind of charge was historically used to persecute gay and bi men.

This means that there are only two types of convictions which can be pardoned. First; convictions which date from before 1967, and which were only brought because both partners were male. Second; convictions from after 1967 which occurred because the age of consent was different for gay and bi men. For both types, as long as both partners were over 16 at the time, and there was no other criminal behaviour, then you are eligible to apply first for a disregard and then a pardon.

“Disregards” were created in 2012, and allowed these two types of convictions to be removed from criminal record checks. Pardons were created in 2017, after Alan Turing was given a posthumous pardon for his homophobic convictions, and were then made available to all men with similar charges. The disregard has the real legal force and removes the conviction from public record, with a pardon more representing an apology from the British state.

Despite existing since 2012, only 483 people have successfully applied for a disregard, and even fewer for a pardon. The combination of strict eligibility criteria with the need to actively apply ensures that the numbers are much lower than the number of outstanding convictions.

It is difficult to know how many men with eligible convictions are still alive, but between 1967 and 2003 when the offences were abolished, there were 26,652 convictions for “Buggery” and 37,200 for “Gross Indecency”. About 30,000 of these convictions were prosecuted after 1980, so there are at least tens of thousands of men who could be pardoned who have not been.

Unlock are hoping to show that the process of disregards and pardons is unfair and discriminatory. While no more people can be prosecuted under the old laws, as long as the criminal records continue to exist, the old regime has not truly been abolished. Thousands of men still have to live with the fallout from a system which attacked them for their sexuality, and to escape that they are expected to apply to the same government which persecuted them.

About You

We want to hear from all men who could benefit from a disregard or a pardon, to hear about their challenges and experience of the criminal justice system. However, we are particularly keen to hear from men who have held off from seeking a pardon because of concerns about their privacy and their past being dredged up again.

  • You could be any age today, but are likely between 40 and 80.
  • You must have been convicted of an s.12 or s.13 offence before 2003.
  • You must be eligible for a disregard or pardon, so your conviction can only be for activity that is legal today and with a partner who was over 16 at the time.
  • You must have not yet applied for a disregard or pardon, because either you are afraid the process will involve your convictions becoming public, or because you are concerned the process will be insensitive and accusatory.

Get in touch

Click here to share your story. We want to hear about all experiences and points of view about pardons and disregards, both positive and negative. We understand that these kind of convictions can be difficult to talk about, but your input are critical to our efforts to improve the system and ensure as many people as possible benefit from it.

Your experiences will only be shared with your consent, and Unlock will never reveal your name or any other identifying details.

Read more

Unlock and Nottinghamshire Youth Justice Service collaborate on resource for young people with convictions

We are pleased to publish a new resource we’ve created in collaboration with Nottinghamshire Youth Justice Service. The booklet, produced for young people and the professionals supporting them, is designed to help a young person understand when they need to disclose their convictions, and how to do so.

Download the booklet

Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, said:

“We were delighted to partner with Nottinghamshire Youth Justice Service to develop this resource. It’s crucial that organisations supporting individuals with a criminal record have good understanding on if, what, when and how their clients will need to tell employers and others about their criminal record. We have delivered our ‘Advising with Conviction’ training to a range of youth offending teams and we were pleased to follow this up by producing this information booklet for the young people that Nottinghamshire Youth Justice Service work with.” 

Laura Moore from Nottinghamshire Youth Justice Service said: 

“The fair disclosure of any criminal convictions is paramount to individuals in order for them to successfully move on from their past. The rules can be very confusing, and we have found that, particularly for young people they have little confidence in disclosing the right information or challenging unfair judgements. By working with Unlock we have been able to jointly produce a comprehensive and accurate booklet for young people to give them all the information they need. They can choose to use it now or refer to it the future. It has also proved very useful in encouraging employers and educational organisations to consider their polices around people with criminal records.  Unlock have been a valued partner and source of training and support in this area of expertise.”

Find out more about Unlock’s training for professionals

Monthly update – November 2020

We’ve just published our update for November 2020.

This months update includes:

  1. New guidance explaining the rules on what is disclosed on (and removed from) standard and enhanced criminal record checks following changes to the filtering rules which came into effect on 28 November 2020.
  2. A personal story from Roger describing his experience of volunteering at Unlock.
  3. A link to a discussion on theForum from an individual wanting to find out whether his recent caution will affect his application for settled status.
  4. Details of the award given to Unlock by the Criminal Justice Alliance for ‘Outstanding National Organisation’.

 

The full update provides a summary of:

  1. the latest updates to our self-help information site for people with convictions
  2. recent posts to our online magazine, theRecord
  3. discussions on our online forum
  4. other news and developments that might be of interest to individuals with a criminal record.

Read the November 2020 update in full.

Best wishes,

Unlock

Notes

  • All previous updates can be found in full in the ‘Latest updates’ section of our Information Hub
  • For more self-help information, please visit unlock.devchd.com/information-and-advice/
  • If you have any questions about this information, please contact our helpline
  • If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up to receive these updates directly by clicking here and selecting to receive ‘News/updates for people with convictions’
  • If you have found this information use, please leave us your feedback and/or consider making a donation.

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