I have not had a great past in terms of childhood experiences, having been brought up in a family with strict values; I always felt that my choices in life were limited. Then in my late teens, something happened which would further blight my life. I landed myself a criminal conviction. At the young and naive age of 19, I was found in possession of a prohibited weapon and prohibited ammunition.
At the time I was in a relationship with someone who had obtained a firearm. The weapon was a 9mm revolver, which apparently he believed to be a replica. One evening, as we were travelling in his car he realised the police were going to pull him over. I noticed him start panicking and then, whilst he was still driving, he revealed the weapon to me and told me to hide it. I was very scared, confused and worried and had no idea what to do. He insisted that I conceal it in my handbag, reassuring me that all would be OK. Sure enough, the police stopped us and his vehicle was searched along with my handbag. The weapon was quickly discovered.
The police arrested me and I was later charged with offences committed under the Firearms Act 1968. I was absolutely devastated and couldn’t believe this was happening to me. With legal advice, I accepted responsibility for my part and my ex also admitted his guilt.
The relationship ended and after a long stressful 6 months of attending Court Hearings, I received my sentence – a 2 year conditional discharge. At the time, I was studying Law at University and had hoped to pursue a career in the legal field. I was extremely worried that this conviction would jeopardise my future career plans. My legal representative told me he would be willing to write to the Law Society to confirm my suitability for the profession but in my heart I had already given up on this career path.
Needless to say this affected my confidence in a huge way and ever since then I have deliberately avoided applying for jobs where I know I would have to disclose my dreaded conviction in fear of being judged and rejected.
After spending about 8 years going from one mediocre job to another with periods of unemployment in between, I finally discovered something I felt truly passionate about – helping people make positive decisions about their lives through talking therapy. I took a short course in counselling skills which I successfully completed and passed. I really wanted to progress with my studies but I knew there would be quite a big financial outlay and I did not want to waste time, effort and money embarking on something if it meant that my conviction was going to get in the way of my practising.
In May 2013 when the DBS filtering system was brought in, I started to think ‘Does this mean I will finally be free of my conviction and the past?’ I could see from the list of offences that would never be filtered that the offences I had been convicted of were not included. I felt hopeful but I wanted to be certain and so I contacted the DBS only to find out that although I had only one conviction and the offences were indeed eligible for filtering, I would still be required to disclose as I had been charged with two offences. My heart sank.
I continued to do further studying and as much as I have tried to tell myself to just go after what I want, regardless of my conviction, from time to time I still worry that I may just be wasting my time and will be left feeling disappointed again. There are job opportunities that I just allow to pass me by without even trying because of my belief that I will be judged and discriminated against. I am 33 years old now, in a stable and loving relationship and have a 3 year old son and I hate that this has happened to me. I hate having to relive it every time I attend a job interview.
I really would like the DBS filtering system to be reviewed and reformed to allow people like myself to move on from their past and not to be haunted by it every time the opportunity to pursue a dream job comes up.
I am however tired of the old stories that I tell myself, which I feel are holding me back from living the life that I want and feel I deserve. I will continue to pursue the things I desire regardless of what the outcome will be as I passionately believe in having goals, aiming high and following your dreams. After all, as mentioned by another writer, successes are built on failure.
By Hilary (name changed to protect identity)