Being a hard worker with some impressive skills, it’s natural that Steve’s employers would want him to work on prestigious government contracts. However, with a conviction from 25 years ago, passing security vetting has been almost impossible for him.
I was convicted of common assault almost 25 years ago after a domestic incident with my then wife.
Very briefly, during the course of an argument my ex she hit me several times with a metal bar that she’d found in my indoor tool box. In self-defence, I struck out and my hand hit her on the side of her head, knocking her over and causing her to fall against our coffee table. Shocked at what had occurred, I grabbed my coat and left.
I stayed at my brother’s house that night and the next morning at the factory where I worked the police turned up and I was arrested. I had sustained from the previous night a fractured thumb, a bad cut to my ear, a deep scratch on my neck and bruising to my upper arm and shoulder blade. I was in pain.
My wife had accused me of beating her and knocking her out. She also alleged that I frequently beat my 6 year old son and was regularly drunk. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I hardly ever drank at home and never went out to the pub drinking. I worshipped my wife and son and I’d never laid a finger on either of them ever. She’d told the police that I’d been having an affair (completely untrue) which was what had provoked the argument and ‘beating’.
Later that week, my wife contacted me asking whether we could meet up to discuss a way forward. The police had told me not to have any contact with her prior to going to court and so I refused. She started yelling down the phone being really abusive and my brother who could hear everything, suggested that I just go and see what she wanted. I met her outside a shop in full public view as protection for both of us.
It was only then that I found out from her that she was on antidepressants, which had led to some irrational mood swings. She told me that in the 9 years we’d been married, she’d had 2 affairs and was in debt to some bloke that lived in our village. She went on to say that all her friends were single, going out and having a good time and she felt left out.
I was totally clueless about any of this (although I later found out that most of it was common knowledge in our village). I felt sick, devastated and ashamed. I considered killing myself but instead went to my brother’s house, sitting up half the night talking about my marriage and situation – thankfully, he’s a really good listener.
At court a month later I was convicted of common assault, fined £1500 and given 40 weeks community service. I was told that I couldn’t see my son unless there was somebody else present.
After the court hearing I was ostracised by many people in the village who wanted nothing to do with me. They were all of the opinion that my wife was the innocent victim and I was nothing more than a thug. I couldn’t live like that and decided to turn my back on it all.
I moved 400 miles away but continued to pay most of my salary on maintenance to support my wife and child.
For the first 5 years I struggled to get work but somehow managed to survive. Once my conviction was spent it became easier and I found myself a decent job with a good salary. Things were going well until the company I was working for won a contract to work on UK and US air bases. All contract staff had to be security checked and as my conviction was spent and 12 years old, I didn’t think I needed to disclose it. Not long after, I was called into the office and told that I’d failed the security checks and that the company couldn’t keep me on. I was offered the sack or redundancy.
I was a good craftsman who always worked hard so it was disappointing to be unemployed again. I eventually found another job but came up against similar issues when I needed to work in certain parts of hospitals and schools. I couldn’t face the embarrassment of explaining my conviction so I’d leave before I had to have any DBS checks done.
21 years on from my conviction and I’ve been working for the same employer for 5 years now. However two weeks ago I was told that we’d just been awarded a new contract and I’ll have to attend government buildings. I was given a security checking form to fill out and despite staring at it and half completing it, I knew I just couldn’t go through the rejection again and so I handed in my notice.
I didn’t tell my employer the real reason I was leaving and I know they are really annoyed with me because I’ve had a lot of money invested in me doing training courses.
I’ve started applying for other jobs but I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to get a reference from my last employer and I know I can’t get security clearance all because of my old conviction. My savings have already stated to dwindle and I reckon I may have to try to move out of the area now for another fresh start.
By Steve (name changed to protect identity)
- Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
- Information – We have practical self-help information on disclosing criminal records to employers
- Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum
- Policy work – Find out more about the work we’re doing on improving support to secure meaningful employment.