We’re always encouraging people to try and build good relationships with their probation officer, however difficult this can sometimes be. Rosie explains the assistance she was given by her probation officer and the benefits of seeking peer advice, in this case from the Unlock forum.
To say that I’ve had the year from hell is an understatement. At the beginning of the year I was convicted of a white collar crime and given a suspended sentence and 300 hours of unpaid work. Up until the time I was arrested (May 2016) I’d been living with my husband 5,000 miles away from the UK but whilst awaiting my court appearance and sentencing I hadn’t been allowed to leave the UK.
As he sentenced me, the judge said he hoped that after completing my unpaid work requirements I would be allowed to return home to my family. It took me just 6 weeks to complete the 300 hours (I worked six days a week, 8 hours a day) and I sold my house to ‘we-buy-any-house.com’ at a greatly reduced price in order to raise the funds quickly to return to my country of residence.
As I was finishing my last day at the charity shop where I worked and saying goodbye to all my new friends, I received a call from my probation officer telling me that there was no way I would be allowed to return home until my suspended prison sentence was completed; 22.5 months away. I was absolutely devastated. I was homeless, had no job, no savings, a crucified reputation, the lot. I couldn’t understand the purpose of keeping me in the UK. I was classed as low risk and my probation officer had already told me that she would no longer need to see me.
I contacted loads of solicitors and other specialists but nobody could help. I was told again and again to keep my head down and wait out the end of my sentence. But I’d lost everything and there was no way that I was going to lose my marriage as well. So, as I sat on a friends’ settee one evening surfing the internet, I came across the Unlock forum and added a post asking if anybody had been in a similar situation to me and what advice they could offer.
It wasn’t long before I got a response from somebody who’d been through something similar and offered me some help. He gave me some fantastic advice about my legal standing with probation and suggested I research information around the right to family life etc. I’d built up a good relationship with my probation officer and I could tell that she was as frustrated with my situation as I was. Every piece of useful information that I found which I thought might help me get home I sent to her, bombarding her with details of other similar cases that I’d found online. I had nothing to lose and nothing else to do.
The solicitor who’d dealt with my original case was pretty useless. I truly have lost a lot of respect for the legal system, it seems all they’re interested in is money. I can honestly say that I got a lot more help from the Unlock forum than my legal team.
I’m not sure whether it was the information I sent to probation or the fact that they were just sick of my tenacity but a couple of weeks ago my wonderful probation officer called me to say that she’d taken my case to the Deputy Director of Probation and that I should book my flight, pack my case and return home. I was free to go.
So here I am 5,000 miles away with our rescue animals (8 so far). My husband is the happiest man on the planet and I’ve already received a job offer. Life is good. I’m determined to stay in touch with the guy that helped me on the Unlock forum. I really hope that one day I’ll be able to help him as much as he helped me.
If I can give any advice as far as my dealings with probation go, it would be to be polite and honest, do exactly as they tell you and give them no reason to dislike you. I know that having my probation officer on my side really helped me. Not only was she able to present my case to the Deputy Director but, as I’d always been very upfront with her, she was confident in supporting my application to move overseas.
I’m keen to put the last couple of years behind me and start to live my new life overseas.
By Rosie (name changed to protect identity)
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- Information – We have practical self-help information on probation, travelling whilst on licence and travelling while on a community order
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