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“Computer says no” to running a business

Like many people who contact Unlock, I have convictions. There’s more than one – fraud, burglary, driving whilst disqualified and I’m not proud of them but I’ve learnt my lesson and now I just want to put the past behind me and move on.

At the moment I have an unspent conviction and I’m on licence until next year. I’ve done everything that my probation officer has asked of me and never missed an appointment.

As we all know, work is hard to come by especially if you’ve got a criminal record. I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs and didn’t even get an interview and so at the beginning of this year, I decided to set up my own cleaning business. It’s taken me a while to get it off the ground but I’ve slowly managed to get myself several contracts in and around the town in which I live. I’m trying really hard to be a good person, run a successful business and prove to the community in which I live that I’ve turned over a new leaf.

Now that I’ve got some contacts, I decided last month to start the process of registering my business with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. I mentioned this to my Probation Officer thinking that she would see it as a really positive step. She told me that due to my “offending history” I couldn’t run my own business in any way, shape or form. I asked if I could run if from behind the scenes but again the response was ‘no’.

I was so disappointed. All I’m trying to do is provide for myself and my family and put my criminal past behind me.

I really didn’t know where to turn and a search of the internet led me to the Unlock Helpline. I spoke to somebody there about my experience, the man I spoke to listened for ages and at the end gave me some really good advice.

It looks like my probation officer could be wrong and that I could run my business after all. There’s nothing legally stopping me from being a director of my company and I have no restrictions on my licence. I’m going to have to try and speak with my probation officer and maybe make some sort of formal appeal.

I really hope that my probation officer has just made a mistake but at the moment it feels really personal. It seems as though she is deliberately putting obstacles in the way.

I’m not asking for special treatment and I know that I’ve done wrong in the past. I’ve been told that probation officer’s use some sort of computer programme to assess how risky an offender is. I’ve met my probation officer regularly over the last year and I thought that she had gotten to know me well. Surely she should make a decision based on the face to face contacts she has had with me rather than looking to a computer for an answer.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can continue with my business. If I can’t, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. As the business grows, I want to give other ex-offenders a chance of employment so please probation it’s not just my future that’s going to be affected but the future of others as well.


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