It’s only too easy for an employer or immigration officer to plug your name into a search engine and read all about your criminal record. ‘Spent’ convictions, offences which go back years and even crimes for which you’ve been charged and never found guilty are all fair game.
After my conviction my story and photos appeared in a number of news outlets. I wanted to travel the world and work without being persecuted.
When I decided to change my name legally by Deed Poll, I was abroad but found there are any number of online companies who can send you an official certificate in your current country.
Next, you need to have your deed poll document certified by a lawyer. I found one nearby and explained my situation. He not only authorised my papers but refused to accept any money.
My next step was to apply for a passport under my new name. I wanted to do this quickly as I’d read the UK government are soon going to change the law so that people convicted of certain offences can’t change their name.
The government website helpfully explained if you want to apply for a passport in your new name, you should use it when making the application. Afterwards you can enter details of your old one.
Once I’d paid my application fee, the Passport Office gave me an address to send my old passport and the Deed Poll document. They also asked me for supporting documents using the new name. My heart sank as I read through the list, as they were asking for papers like a work visa, driving license or insurance card – all items which require photo ID in my new name to obtain. I called the Passport Office and explained the situation. They said they’d be happy to accept a bank statement with my new name on it and a work contract with my new details.
After speaking to my bank and sending them a copy of the deed poll, they were happy to update my name. My employer also issued me with a contract under my new name.
My new passport arrived a couple of weeks later. It’s early days but I’m planning to use this to update my details with all my banks and order new cards, as well as get a new driving license.
True, I’ll have to tell the UK Police about my new name, but I also know that they don’t routinely share this information with the authorities in other countries. My new name is also common enough to make it difficult to google anything specific.
In the future, if I’m applying for a visa or a new job and they ask about my criminal background I plan to put ‘none’. This is dishonest, but not illegal in itself. I have done my time and feel I have a right to live my life.
By Paul (name changed to protect identity)