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I fought the big guys and won – getting a newspaper article removed

Having successfully applied to have links to her name removed from search engines such as Google and Bing, Lucy decided to make a request to the newspaper to have the source article taken down.

My conviction was 25 years ago but it had made the press and whilst it wasn’t that much of a big deal at the time, in the age of the internet, I soon found it to be a major problem. I found that I couldn’t apply for the jobs I wanted to because even though my conviction was spent, people could easily look me up on Google and see the press articles.

I considered changing my name but for me it wouldn’t have helped. If I’d had to have a criminal record check I would have needed to disclose my previous name and the reason for changing it. Employer’s or hiring staff would then be able to look me up and see everything.

For years I avoided the jobs I wanted and felt really down about it. It seemed so unfair that I was not able to move on properly with my life, knowing all the while that these articles were out there, lurking, just waiting to be found.

However, everything changed for me when I came across the Unlock website and a page about applying to Google to get links to your name removed. I read the page over and over and then set about filling out the request form, not just to Google but for several other search engines.

A couple of weeks later I was surprised to get a notification from Google, Bing and a few others agreeing to my request. I typed my name to test it out and sure enough nothing appeared.

A website was, however, still linking to the articles and when I contacted them to find out why, they explained that as they received their information upstream, they were unable to remove it; I’d have to go directly to the source (this was a national newspaper).

I wrote to the newspaper outlining my reasons for wanting the article removed and provided them with the correspondence from Google and Bing which confirmed their agreement to remove the links. The newspaper refused my request.

Feeling really deflated I contacted the Unlock helpline to find out whether there was anything else I could do. They advised me to make a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

This time the newspaper got their legal team involved but they still refused my request on the basis that the articles were still of significant interest to the public. They might have been trying to scare me but I felt empowered after all my research. I appealed their decision mentioning the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and how I had a right to live a life free of being periodically stigmatised by their articles. I stated that the articles were no longer in the public interest, that they were irrelevant, excessive and they infringed my right to live as if I had not committed those crimes; I copied this letter to the ICO.

A week later and another email from the Head of Legal at the newspaper, they agreed to my request to take down the article.

How amazing is that! A David and Goliath situation and little me won!

I’m delighted that after so long I can apply for the jobs I want without worrying about being ‘Googled’. I didn’t have a clue that I could do anything about getting this article removed or where to begin but once I knew it was possible, I wasn’t going to give up.

By Lucy  (name changed to protect identity)

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