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Will Brexit and Covid improve employment opportunities for people with a criminal record?

If you’ve been watching the news recently you can’t have failed to notice the number of stories talking about the staff shortages across certain sectors.

Although the latest employment figures show that one in 20 people who are looking for work can’t find a job, the number of job vacancies being advertised have hit their highest since the start of the pandemic. In particular, the hospitality industry is struggling to find staff.

This sector has always had a high turnover of staff and even before the pandemic there was a shortage of chefs. For anybody working in hospitality, lockdown and the slow re-opening of bars and restaurants meant that they had to find other kinds of work and having done so many are now reluctant to return to the culture of long, unsociable hours often at minimum wage.

In the early days of the pandemic, supermarkets and other essential stores were able to recruit those who had previously been employed by restaurants and bars but there is now much more competition for these people and it’s likely that the retail sector will be the next to face labour shortages.

Many of these shortages would traditionally have been filled by non-UK workers but approximately 1.3 million foreign nationals have left the country in the last year. Restrictions on travel due to Covid are part of the problem but so too is Brexit and the hostile approach to immigration by the Government.

So what does this mean for people with a criminal record who are finding it difficult to get into employment?

The Institute of Employment Studies say:

“When businesses say ‘We can’t get the staff’, they mean, ‘We can’t get experienced staff'”

However, there are approximately 1.7 million people seeking work who could potentially take up these jobs. This means that the only option to employers will be to consider staff who are less experienced and training them or offer positions to those with experience who may have other factors which have made them unsuitable in the past, for example having an unspent conviction.

The lack of experienced staff means that more than ever, those who may have been refused jobs in the past could stand a much higher chance of landing a position and rapidly climbing the career ladder.

Not only is it possible that more opportunities will become available but the shortage of workers is likely to drive up wages as well as improve working conditions.

In terms of the hospitality sector, don’t assume that the only jobs available will be working in a kitchen or behind a bar, there are many more opportunities available; what about utilising your skills in marketing or management?

For many years Adnams Brewery and Roast Restaurants have been signed up to the Ban the Box campaign and removed the question about criminal records from their application forms. But there are plenty more companies that also have a very positive attitude towards those with a criminal record including Honest Burgers and Greene King.

Tips for getting a job in hospitality?

  • Walk in off the street – This is not an unusual way of getting a job in a restaurant or bar. Some advertise jobs in their window or on boards outside.
  • Show passion and enthusiasm – Bar tending and waitressing are skills that can be taught but passion and enthusiasm can’t.
  • Identify your transferrable skills – Being organised, adaptable and able to work as a team as well as any type of customer service skills will transfer well into the hospitality industry.
  • Use social media – Update your social media profiles and covering letter and regularly search platforms like Twitter and Facebook for job opportunities.
  • Network – It’s sometimes easier to get a job through word of mouth so make sure your friends, family and other contacts know that you’re looking for work.
  • Highlight previous experience – If you’ve worked in the industry (however long ago) tell the employer. Any experience will still prove valuable.

There are some amazing opportunities available and business owners will often consider attitude to work as important as experience. Demonstrating that you have good communication skills and can be flexible might be a good start in landing yourself a new job.

So what are you waiting for? This could be just the start of a whole new career.

By Adam

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have some practical self-help information on  Information on disclosing criminal records to employers.
  • Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum.

Amazon, if you ban all applicants with unspent convictions then you’re missing out on a huge amount of talent

Visit Amazon’s website and you’ll read this “We are passionate about creating a diverse workforce to reflect our global customer base and ensure we have diverse perspectives”. Unfortunately, Marc’s experiences of this diversity and inclusivity were very different.


Back in 2015 I received a conviction for offences against my wife (common assault and harassment) which resulted in a prison sentence of 23 months.

My actions were totally out of character and I feel shame and remorse for the way I behaved. I don’t want to be seen as someone that can’t take responsibility for their actions or as somebody that’s just making excuses but at the time I was suffering from undiagnosed PTSD which led to my lack of judgement and irrational behaviour.

The time I spent in prison enabled me to seek help for my PTDS and I left prison better able to deal with the things that had contributed to my offending behaviour.

On leaving prison, I applied for many jobs with little success but managed to get by working in a variety of short term, temporary posts. However, earlier this year I saw a driving job advertised with Amazon. It was an ideal job for me, I loved driving and I had no problem working on my own.

I was delighted to get an interview and knowing that Amazon would carry out a basic DBS check if I was successful, I took the opportunity to disclose my conviction during the interview. This didn’t seem to be a problem for the interviewer and a week later I received a job offer.

I’d been working for the company for approximately 3 weeks when I was telephoned by HR informing me that they had received my basic DBS certificate and that my contract was being terminated due to the information which had been disclosed on it.

To start with I thought they’d made a mistake. I’d assumed that the basic DBS certificate would only be used by Amazon to verify what I’d already told them. But sadly, it was no joke and when I received the formal letter in the post it stated that I was being dismissed for

Gross misconduct for failing to pass a background check.

I tried to appeal Amazon’s decision but my appeal failed.

I’ve subsequently discovered that Amazon have a blanket ban on the recruitment of people with unspent convictions so it was a dot on the card that my appeal wouldn’t be successful.

I loved the time I spent at Amazon (albeit only 3 weeks) and felt proud being part of their team. Although I don’t agree with their blanket ban on recruiting people with unspent convictions, I would have preferred to know from the outset that my application was never going to be progressed. I feel as though I’ve wasted a month of my life when I could have spent the time applying to an employer with more inclusive values.

By Marc (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

This is not the first time Unlock has heard of individuals being dismissed by Amazon for failing a DBS check, despite disclosing unspent convictions during the recruitment process. We are concerned at the implication that applicants can either pass or fail a DBS check, this is certainly not the case – it is the responsibility of the employer to decide who they employ and whether a conviction is relevant to the job they are doing.

As part of our Fair Access to Employment project we have tried to engage with Amazon to encourage them to implement fair and inclusive policies that support the recruitment of people with convictions, without success.

Useful links


Disclosing a conviction isn’t easy but it might be the best thing you ever do

Archie was seriously considering turning down a fantastic job offer after learning that his conviction would appear on his enhanced DBS certificate. However, advice from his dad gave him the confidence to disclose.


I’d been working for the NHS through an agency for approximately 2 years when I was offered the role on a permanent basis.

However after the initial feeling of euphoria it suddenly dawned on me that I might need to have a criminal record check. The agency had never done one and so I’d never had to disclose my criminal record.

I waited until I received the paperwork from HR and, as I’d expected they wanted to carry out an enhanced DBS check. I knew my conviction was about 6 years old but I had no idea whether it would show up on the DBS certificate. However after asking ‘Mr Google’ it seemed clear that enhanced DBS checks revealed everything and that I would have to disclose my conviction to the employer.

I’d only received a fine but I’d been convicted of urinating in a public place. I appreciate that it was a really stupid thing to do but I guess we all do stupid things when we’re younger. It’s definitely not something I’m proud of but I don’t think I would have been a problem explaining it to a new employer that I didn’t know.

However, the thought of disclosing to somebody I’d known for 2 years just filled me with dread. I had a great relationship with all my colleagues and I was really worried that they’d see me differently or not want to work with me. What if the job offer got revoked once HR had seen my enhanced certificate?

The more I thought about it the bigger the problem became until I’d convinced myself that the only option would be to turn the job down. That weekend I went to have Sunday lunch with my parents and when my dad asked me how my job was going I blurted everything out to him. As a no nonsense Yorkshireman all he could say was:

Get over yourself boy and grow a pair. Just go in there and tell them that when you were younger you were an idiot and did something really stupid.”

Good old dad!!

So on the Monday morning with dad’s voice still ringing in my ears I arranged to go and speak with HR. At that point I was feeling pretty confident but I could tell from the HR manager’s face that it wasn’t going to be quite so straightforward. After my disclosure she thanked me and said:

I’m surprised that this hasn’t come to light before but I’ll not make any decisions until I see your enhanced certificate.”

I walked out of the room feeling dejected and ashamed but, as the day work on, I got my fighting spirit back and was determined that whatever the decision was, I wouldn’t let it lie. I was the best person for the job and I’d fight for it.

I’m pleased to say that when the DBS certificate came back all was fine and I got my new employment contract from the NHS. However, I’m aware that things could have been very different:

  • If I was a new applicant, unknown to HR and the department it’s likely my application would have been rejected in favour of somebody with a clean DBS certificate.
  • If my dad hadn’t given me a good talking to I wouldn’t have gone through with the disclosure, I would have simply turned the job down.

Having decided to pursue a career in the NHS what would I have done if the job offer had been refused?

I received a conviction for urinating up a wall in a side street not realising that I could be seen by a woman and her young daughter. As I said above, I was young and stupid but I could just have easily got into a fight in a pub and been charged with common assault (or worse) or graphited my name in the local park and been convicted of criminal damage. It’s not the case that one offence is worse than the other but they can all be committed by young people who fail to think through the consequences of their actions. But, most of us grow up, most of us wise up. We get married, we have kids of our own. We become respectable, tax paying members of society.

So come on employers, try to see the person standing in front of you now and not the person on the DBS certificate.

And lastly, because I don’t say it often enough. Thanks dad for always keeping me grounded, for giving me a push when I needed it and for your unconditional love and support.

By Archie (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have some practical self-help information on  Information on disclosing criminal records to employers.
  • Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum.

My conviction is spent but there’s no end to the ongoing consequences of my criminal record

Although it’s possible that Kieran’s autism may have contributed to his inappropriate behaviour in public, he has never used it to excuse what he did. Unfortunately, 2 years on Kieran is still having to live with the consequences of his actions and is finding it difficult to see any future for himself.

It’s probably important for me to say at the start that I have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and so writing articles like this is difficult for me. However I’m going to give it a shot.

At the age of 17 I was arrested for the offence of outraging public decency and in February 2019 received a 12 month youth referral order. Between my arrest and going to court I was given a conditional caution for a similar incident which happened when I was travelling on a train on my way to college. I deeply regret both of these incidents.

I was in my second year at college studying for a Diploma in Travel and Tourism when I was arrested for the incident on the train. As a result of this I was suspended from college pending the result of the police investigation. The investigation seemed to go on forever and eventually I dropped out of college and never got my qualification.

Word quickly got around my local neighbourhood about my conviction. It seemed as though my neighbours thought I’d got off lightly with a referral order and kept reporting me for things I hadn’t done. I was regularly being arrested but none of these incidents were taken any further by the police as I was able to prove that they were nothing to do with me.

Following my conviction I worked with the Youth Offending Team who were absolutely brilliant. I managed to gain employment as a customer advisor for a large organisation, working nights. I was still being arrested regularly (nothing ever came of these) but luckily my employer never became aware of these.

I quickly got promoted to a trainee pharmacy advisor and transferred to another store. The arrests continued and on one occasion, I was arrested at work. Of course my manager started asking me a lot of questions when I returned for my next shift but when I explained about the false allegations he was happy for me to continue working.

Understandably however, after so many allegations the local police started to get really suspicious and began to believe that there might be some truth to the allegations that were being made against me and decided to apply for a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO). Within 3 months of the application being submitted to the court, an indefinite SHPO was issued and from that day forward, my life fell apart.

I lost my job, my income and ended up in £5,000 of debt. I’ve now moved away from the area that I’d previously lived in and I’m pleased to say that the allegations have completely stopped. I’m now looking for a new job which is proving to be extremely difficult as I have to disclose the SHPO every time I am asked about convictions. Knowing that the SHPO will be in place forever means that I don’t even have an end date to look forward to.

I recently attempted to end my life and was found on a bridge by the police. I was sectioned and sent to a psychiatric hospital for approximately 4 weeks. I am on medication for anxiety and since being sectioned I have attempted to end my life several times. I am not in a good place at all.

I had always had two main goals:

  • To travel the world or work within the travel industry, and
  • To begin socialising (due to my autism I find this hard) and start a relationship.

Unfortunately I can no longer travel the world as the majority of places I want to visit will need a visa which I won’t get as I have a criminal record and I’m on the sex offenders register. It’s also going to affect my chances of finding somebody to start a relationship with – I don’t want to put anybody else through this and I wouldn’t want a relationship where I couldn’t be open and truthful.

I now find that I don’t want to get up in the mornings. I have a lot of suicidal thoughts, I just don’t want to exist. I have a lot of debt that I can’t repay and nothing to live for.

I have only recently come to terms with the fact that one mistake has caused all this to happen. It’s put a terrible strain on my family. My mum doesn’t want anything more to do with me and as my sister is only 16 I’m only occasionally allowed to see her when my father is present.

I’m not posting this because I want sympathy – I understand that what I did was wrong. I am posting this as I’d like to raise awareness of what it’s like to be convicted of a sexual offence and the consequences afterwards.

By Kieran (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

In September 2020 Unlock, together with the Prison Reform Trust published a joint report, ‘Thinking Differently’ exploring employers attitudes towards the recruitment of people convicted of sexual offences. Research showed that employers discriminate generally against people with convictions but those convicted of sexual offences are the most stigmatised. The report sets out a number of recommendations to address the barriers faced by those convicted of a sexual offence who are looking to get back into employment.

Useful links

When everyone is included, everyone wins

As part of her job Susie engages with both individuals with a criminal record and employers. She says that there have been some changes in employers attitudes towards those with a criminal record over the past 10 years but more still needs to be done and it’s important therefore to share examples of good practice.

For the last 10 years I have worked for an organisation which supports people with a criminal record back into work. During the course of my work, I regularly engage with employers trying to get them to recognise the benefits of employing somebody with a criminal record.

The world has changed a lot over the last 10 years and many of the employers I work with have a much more diverse workforce than they did 10 years ago. For many years I’ve seen employers such as Timpsons and Greggs recruiting people with criminal records and speaking passionately about it, however employers like these are few and far between.

This disappoints me immensely as I know that many of the individuals I work with are people that in the past have made mistakes or wrong decisions; they’re not habitual offenders, they just want to put the past behind them and move on.

However I’ve recently worked with an employer who has taken such a sensible approach to recruitment that I felt it was important to share it. Not only with the other employers I engage with who might be reviewing their recruitment practices and policies but, also people who are currently looking for work in the hope that this will make them feel a lot more positive about the future.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of the individuals criminal record or name the employer involved. All I’ll say is that I’ve been working with this particular young man for a while (I’ll call him Jason) and he has a criminal record that he no longer needs to disclose to an employer. However, due to the huge amount of media interest in his case (the offence was a serious one) details of it can easily be found online if anybody ‘googles’ him.

Recently, Jason was invited to attend an interview, working shifts for a small distribution company. The company were based very close to where his offence took place and there was every possibility that Jason would come into contact with people who knew about his past.

He was concerned that if he were offered the job, the employer could find out about his criminal record (either from the internet, or someone else) and so, against my advice, at the end of the interview he chose to disclose.

He made it clear to the employer that he didn’t need to do so but he wanted to be completely up front and honest and wanted the employer to be aware of all the circumstances before making a decision. The employer thanked him for his honesty and said he’d be in touch.

When Jason told me what he’d done there was a part of me that really admired his honesty but I couldn’t help thinking that he’d probably blown his chances with the employer. I’d worked with them for a while and although they’d recruited others with a criminal record, these had generally been for quite low level offences. To my surprise, Jason was invited in for a further discussion.

The employer made it clear to Jason that they believed his offence to be a serious one especially as it had been against a vulnerable person. They explained that some of his shifts may involve him working unsupervised with just one other person which gave them some cause for concern. However, they felt that measures could be put in place which would mitigate any risk and Jason was offered a full time position with them.

I’m not sure that Jason realises quite how big a deal this was for the employer. Although he didn’t need to disclose once he had, most employers would have found it difficult to forget what they’d heard. But not this company. They were looking for reasons to employ him, not reasons to reject him.

I know the employer has no regrets about giving Jason a job and to date, nobody has bought his criminal record to their attention (not that it would matter now if they did). The employer knew that Jason was the right person for the job but were happy to share their concerns about the potential risk he may pose. Understanding these risks allowed measures to be put in place to protect both parties.

Anyone reading this who has a criminal record will no doubt applaud the recruitment policies of this particular employer but other employers take note – diversity promotes a better and more inviting working environment. So don’t just think of diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education and natural origin – think criminal record too.

By Susie (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

Although Unlock’s golden rule is “only disclose if you’re asked”, there are lots of reasons why people choose to disclose even when they’re not asked or don’t need to. Like Jason, the main reason is because of information which can be found by an employer online. If you’re on licence or serving a community order, disclosing to an employer may be a condition of probation and if you know that an employer is going to carry out a formal criminal record check then you may want to disclose before an employer has sight of your DBS certificate.

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have some practical self-help information on  Information on disclosing criminal records to employers.
  • Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum.


Have you been through the criminal justice system? Have you got a story to share?

For over 10 years, our online magazine, theRecord has given people with a criminal record a place to share their stories.

Starting out as a monthly newsletter, theRecord has grown a lot since those early days. It shares the experiences of people with cautions and convictions – both good and bad.

From the articles we receive, we know that having a criminal record need not be the end of the world and for some, it can be an opportunity to start something new; a university course, a new job or possibly a new business.

It’s important that people facing barriers because of a criminal record are given hope and inspiration for the future, knowing that it is possible to have a life after a conviction. It’s also important for those struggling with obstacles and discrimination to know that they’re not alone.

If you feel that your criminal record is adversely affecting you, then theRecord can provide a platform for you to share your experience.

So, let’s use our stories to encourage and support one another.

We don’t just want to hear the good news but also the obstacles and hurdles that you’re facing.

You can find out more about contributing to theRecord here. If, you’re ready to share something now, please email your contribution to

Want a change of career? How about becoming a lorry driver?

If you’re currently looking for a new career, then retraining as a lorry driver might be the job for you. In this article, Stevie sets out the pros and cons of working as a driver and we share Toby’s experience of retraining and his thoughts on his new job.

The demand for drivers is soaring but the number of people qualified to drive HGV’s is falling, with the shortfall estimated to reach 257,000 by 2022. This means that now may be the perfect time to think about driving a lorry for a living.

It’s not just the number of jobs out there that make being a lorry driver an attractive career choice. It’s a varied job with a range of benefits:

  • You can earn a good basic wage – the average salary is £32,500.
  • You can boost your annual salary – there’s often the opportunity for overtime.
  • You can travel to new places – the routes you drive could take you across Europe.
  • You get a sense of freedom – this is no desk job and you get a lot of time to yourself.

Lorry driving is a booming career and it’s one that’s open to those who have a criminal conviction – unless your offence led you to being disqualified from driving.

But before you rush in and start looking for jobs, there are a few things you should consider.

Will an employer pay for you to take your CPC qualification?

The UK government lists three basic requirements that qualify you to be a lorry driver:

Whilst you need to have a CPC, you don’t necessarily need to be the one who pays for it; some companies will offer free training as well as paying for the CPC exams.

Where will you be working (regionally, nationally or internationally)?

Travel is one of the biggest appeals of lorry driving for many people. You get to spend your working life out on the road and this could take you anywhere.

Once upon a time, where you worked was pretty straightforward but Brexit has changed all that. Lorry drivers going from the UK into Europe will need to provide a variety of documents (the BBC recently reported that 71 pages of paperwork were required for a single lorry of fish travelling from the UK to the EU) adding a lot of time and work to a lorry drivers day. If you are driving to Europe therefore you might find yourself spending a lot of time just sitting around waiting, which is likely to make the job a lot less appealing.

Keeping safe on the road

Like any job, lorry driving has it’s disadvantages:

  • Long hours sat behind a wheel can restrict your access to fresh air
  • Time away from your family can impact on your mental health
  • Watching the road for hours could have an effect on your eyesight.

But, the biggest threat to your health could come from having an accident while you’re on the road. This is a serious matter and it’s important that you ask any employer what they’re doing to keep you safe whilst you’re driving.

If you want to earn a decent salary and don’t mind working on your own then working as a lorry driver might be worth considering.

By Stevie Nicks

A comment from Unlock and Toby’s story

For many people receiving a conviction may mean having to consider a new career path and although becoming a lorry driver might not be for everyone, Stevie’s article certainly highlights a skills gap.

Toby initially contacted our helpline 2 years ago for some advice on disclosing his unspent conviction to an employer. He was applying to work in a warehouse for a large distribution company. Toby’s application was successful and a year later he contacted us again after the company he was working for offered him the chance to retrain as an HGV driver.

Although his conviction remained unspent, it was for a non-motoring offence and after being reassured by Unlock that his conviction wouldn’t affect his chances of getting a licence, Toby took the decision to accept his employers offer.

From start to finish, it took Toby 12 weeks to learn to drive an HGV and get his licence. His company paid for all the practical and theory training, his exams, medical and licence. In return, Toby committed to work for them for the next 12 months.

Toby told us

My company put a notice up in the staff canteen asking for applications from anybody interested in retraining as a driver. I had no idea what was involved when I applied, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

Eight of us started the training and only one guy wasn’t able to finish. Apparently he had an unspent motoring conviction and the company were struggling to get him insured. He’s going to apply again once his conviction is spent.

As I’m still on licence, overseas trips might have been an issue but luckily all my work is in the UK and my probation officer saw this as great career progression for me.

I was really pleased to get the job working in the warehouse but this new role has given me not just a great salary but a real sense of self-worth.

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum.

“Don’t let trolls affect your goals” – getting links to your name removed from the internet

Thanks to a close friend, Emlyn found out about the Unlock website and specifically how he could apply to Google to have links to his name removed. As his story demonstrates, this process really can be successful.


My conviction dates back to 2004, when I was 22. I was still living at home, was terrible at managing money and had an enormous amount of debt. This was mostly store and credit cards that I was struggling to pay. I had just got into a stable relationship, and things were starting to work out well for me. I took a job at a call centre for a credit card company, as it was well paid and local. I happened to have a credit card and debt with them but they didn’t check this.

Although I did not set out to, after working there for several months, I discovered that there was a way to wipe my own debt just by pushing a button. The temptation was too much for me, and although I knew it was wrong, I did it. Within seconds my entire debt was wiped. But, it didn’t stop there, I got greedy and I began transferring money from customer accounts into my bank account as cash and then replacing it with credit on their accounts so that they wouldn’t notice. Or so I thought. My own bank noticed the payments, questioned them, and informed the company that I worked for. I was immediately suspended, an investigation was completed and I was arrested and charged.

My case initially went to the magistrates court who referred it to the crown court for sentencing as I had pleaded guilty where I was given a prison sentence. Fortunately, my partner and my parents all stood by me.

All of this happened before Facebook, camera phones and other social media and I was lucky that my story was only published by one local newspaper who also spelt my name wrong. Other than this, there was no public record of my offence.

A year after my conviction my partner and I relocated to Italy, where we began work restoring a Tuscan barn. We took an Italian mortgage to pay for the work and I lived off some money that had been left to me after the death of my grandmother. Unfortunately my relationship with my partner ended and I returned home to live with my parents.

I took a job at a local coffee shop in order to get to know new people, make friends and earn an income. Whilst there I befriended a young, troubled teenager and we became close. I confided in him about my criminal conviction even though I’d not disclosed it to our employer (it hadn’t been asked for on the application form). However after a falling out, he informed our manager of my conviction.

An investigation and enquiry was conducted to determine whether I had obtained the job by deception and whether I should have informed my employers of my criminal record. I faced losing my job but after a meeting with my manager it was decided that as I hadn’t been asked about my record I shouldn’t have been expected to disclose it.

Not long after this, I received an incredible job opportunity with the chance to move to London. It was a fresh start, a way of finally putting everything behind me and to move on with my life.

Apart from the existing friends who knew about my conviction, for most of the time I lived in London I did not think about my criminal record or tell anybody about it. It was a part of my past. I had served my time, learnt from it and was now a completely different person in a different situation. I no longer had credit cards or any debt and was able to manage my finances.

However last year I started to suffer from a series of online attacks after an individual I’d had some previous dealings with came across the only article published about my criminal record. The individual concerned threatened to re-publish the article and although I consulted my solicitor and informed the police there was very little I could do as the information was already in the public domain.

The individual followed through with his threats and this resulted in further trolling and abusive messages with many of the tweets and Facebook messages branding me a “thief” and a “liar”. It was an extremely traumatic time for me and my family and friends, triggering lots of painful memories and all because of the original article which could still be found online about me.

Talking to a friend one evening he told me that there might be a way to have the article removed from the Google search and he suggested that I have a look at the Unlock website and the page relating to the “Google-effect”. It looked like the first step would be to apply to Google to get the links to my name removed from their search engine so, using the template and links on the Unlock website, I immediately completed the online form.

Four days later, I received a response and confirmation from Google that in accordance with my request, they would remove the URL’s for queries related to my name. It was astonishing news. I immediately tested it by typing in my name and sure enough, the article relating to my conviction no longer appeared. I was shocked that it worked and by how quickly it had been actioned.

The article still exists and can still be found but it no longer comes up simply by searching my name and that’s enough for me. It will no longer follow me around or be available just by searching my name. This provides comfort and assurance, knowing that I have more control over who can access this information about me. It also prevents anyone from using my criminal record against me for malicious purposes.

Had I known that it was possible to make a request to have these links removed, I could have saved myself and my family a lot of heartache and distress.

By Emlyn (name changed to protect identity)

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I was one decision away from a different life: Challenging an employer secured me a voluntary role

Akil felt compelled to share his experience of applying for a voluntary role with the NHS and hopes this reassures others that all is not lost just because you have a criminal record.


Between the ages of 17 and 18 I led a fairly turbulent lifestyle which resulted in several convictions including common assault, criminal damage and robbery. That was 18 years ago.

I have lived in fear of these all my life and how they would affect me. I never went near any jobs that needed DBS checks even though I didn’t know what the checks would show.

However I have worked continually since I was 18 and have lived a mainly positive life with no further involvement with the police or the criminal justice system. I am now married with a daughter and I work for a large public sector organisation.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started I wanted to do something to help and so signed up to be an NHS Community Responder. No criminal record check was required to be a basic responder which involved picking up medications and delivering them to those who were isolated or shielding.

I’d been volunteering as a basic responder for a little while when applications opened for Community Responders Plus and Patient Transport Volunteers. As I was really interested in expanding my volunteering experience I started to consider whether this was something I should apply for.

I quickly discovered that the role required an enhanced DBS and barred list check something I would have previously avoided. However, I completed and submitted the application form and waited to see what would happen.

It was a nerve wracking wait and when my enhanced certificate arrived I saw that other than my conviction for robbery, everything else had been filtered. I then received an email from the NHS volunteer team stating that they were aware that a conviction appeared on my DBS certificate but not the details of it. They asked me to provide a copy of the certificate and also confirmed that it would be necessary for them to carry out a risk assessment which would be done by telephone.

I spent several hours preparing for my interview, putting together a disclosure statement that outlined the circumstances surrounding my convictions, the impact and how I felt about them now. It was truthful and I felt it demonstrated how I’d matured and changed my life for the better.

I used the statement to answer the interviewers questions and although she was polite and understanding and agreed that I was a different person now, she told me that it was her manager who had to make the final decision. Not long after I received the “Thanks, but no thanks” email.

I felt that I needed to know more; I wanted to know how they had arrived at their decision and so I applied for a subject access request so that I could see the risk assessment for myself.

Within 24 hours I received a telephone call from the volunteer manager apologising profusely and saying that she wholly disagreed with the decision made not to approve me for the volunteering role. She said that she would be reversing the decision with immediate effect as it was clear that I posed no danger and that balance had not been applied to the risk assessment. I am pleased to say that I am now a Community Responder Plus volunteer.

My experience has highlighted a couple of things to me:

  • Firstly, people still judge and have pre-conceptions of those with criminal convictions, but
  • If you fight for what you want and appeal, the outcome can be very different.

This situation has been a game-changer for me. I now know what is going to appear on my DBS certificate and I can prepare for that. My attitude to applying for jobs which require a standard or enhanced DBS check has completely changed and I now feel a lot more comfortable and confident in discussing my conviction openly and without shame.

By Akil (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links


Nothing is achieved by criminalising young people. Lets work together to support, educate and listen to them

There’s been a huge amount of media coverage recently about violent crime amongst children and young people in the UK. However, it seems that the Government’s answer to this is to give more power to the police to surveil, stop and search and punish young people. Based on his own experience, Rhys questions whether criminalising young people is the answer.

I was diagnosed with emotional behavioural difficulties (EBD) when I was in year 2 of primary school and I subsequently transitioned into a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school. The school was for children like me who found mainstream education challenging. Due to the nature of the school, staff were trained in restraint which was used to control certain behaviours.

When I was 14 years old I was in a maths lesson at school when I got into an altercation with another boy over a Pokemon card. This altercation became physical and staff intervened to apply restraints to both myself and the other child. As I was in crisis at this time and surprised by the sudden physical contact with another person, I swung my arm and accidently whacked my teacher on her forearm. This caused a small red mark that in all honesty was barely visible and, I was later told, had disappeared completely the following day.

At the time of this incident a new head teacher had just joined the school. He made the decision to contact the police as a member of staff had been physically struck. I had a really good relationship with the staff member concerned and they were reluctant for the police to become involved but, the Head made the executive decision to involve them.

I was charged with assault. My mum was fined £30 and I had to attend meetings with probation over a certain number of weeks.

This assault was not premeditated, it was a total accident which occurred during a time I was in a crisis situation, in a setting that was supposed to have professionals trained to deal with said situation. If this had been intentional I would be able to accept the offence but I wasn’t even looking at the teacher at the time, I was focused on the other child I was arguing with.

Upon leaving school with my GCSE’s, I trained in children’s care, learning and development. It took 3 meetings before I was accepted on the course as I had an assault conviction on my DBS certificate.

After receiving my qualifications, I was successful in my application for a full-time teaching assistant role. Since then I’ve been working in education and was promoted to a management role in the second school I worked in. However, every role I’ve applied for always starts with embarrassment. I have a great interview and go through all of my experience and then have to disclose at the end that I have a conviction for assault from when I was in school as a 14-year old child.

Although it has never impacted on any application I have made (I have always been the successful candidate in all but one position I have been interview for), it does put a downer on my initial first days of any new job.

During my career I have worked with some of Manchester’s most challenging young people. I have been physically assaulted, spat and sworn at, received homophobic and racist abuse yet, I have never criminalised a young person for their behaviours. Whether this is right or wrong is open to debate but in my opinion, criminalising a young person who is attending a provision because they struggle with their behaviour can only be detrimental. I’ve experienced this first hand at the age of 14 and it has followed me throughout my life.

I am now 30 years old and just about to qualify as a social worker but in order to get on the course I again had to disclose my conviction and attend a separate meeting before I was signed off as ‘safe’. The same thing happened before I was able to attend any of my work placements.

The sad thing is, this will show forever on my enhanced DBS certificate – it will never go away. I will still be disclosing that I whacked my teacher on the arm when I was 14 when I’m 60 years old!

I believe a review is urgently required into what information is disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate. Cases should be looked at on an individual basis so that only convictions which are relevant and appropriate are disclosed. Does it really benefit anyone that I have to tell every new employer about an incident which took place when I was a young child?

By Rhys (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

The most recent changes to the filtering rules introduced in November 2020 means that youth cautions will now be filtered immediately from standard and enhanced DBS certificates. However, for those individuals who received a conviction before they were 18, this will appear on their standard/enhanced DBS certificate for at least 5.5 years possibly forever if the offence they were convicted of is non-filterable. This is one of the reasons why Unlock believes that a more nuanced approach needs to be taken to the disclosure of convictions and a discretionary filtering system introduced.

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