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My life has been enriched since challenging my SOPO

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A series of terrible incidents relating to his criminal record led Gerry to apply to have his SOPO revoked with a very positive outcome.

Back in 2009 I was convicted of a downloading offence which resulted in a community sentence and an indefinite SOPO.

In the years following my conviction I started to rebuild my life and was doing very well working in finance as well as doing some freelance writing on the side until one of my colleagues found out about my conviction. For some reason, she’d decided to google me and saw the details of my offence in the local paper. She told me that if I didn’t quit my job, she would tell everybody about my conviction and, fearing the reaction from other work mates, I came clean to my boss. Although he was shocked, he was very fair and I could have possibly kept my job but I felt I had no option but to leave.

Without a main income I started to rely on my freelance work but the work wasn’t always regular and building up my business was slow going. I couldn’t keep up with my rent and was eventually evicted by my landlord but I was lucky to be able to move in with my family.

My copy-writing business was starting to take off when the Twitter stalking began. Over the course of a couple of months various new, and immediately suspended Twitter accounts sent me links to the local newspaper story about my conviction and one included the cheery message:

Always watching, always in pain”

This individual also worked out where I was working and bombarded the contact form on the website with messages including the newspaper link in an attempt to get the boss of the company (who just happened to be me!!) to fire the person named in the story (also me). Sadly the anoymous accounts also tagged a couple of clients who I haven’t heard from since.

It was at this point that I started to search the internet looking for advice and came across Unlock. I was pleased to see that there was some light at the end of the tunnel but it would involve things like changing my name and the name of my business and I also found out that I probably shouldn’t have been given an indefinite SOPO.

I was blessed with a PPU officer who was happy to support my application to have my SOPO scrapped or, failing that, to have some sections of it removed in line with more recent Court of Appeal rulings. Not only that, but unlike other PPU officers I’d had before, she told me that I didn’t need a solicitor to represent me, that she’d known many people who’d done their own applications and that she thought I was more than capable of doing this myself.

I was expecting to have to wait a while for a court date but I actually got a hearing very quickly. The judge said he was minded to grant my application but had received no response from the police so wanted to wait for that before granting it.

Months went by.

Towards the end of last year, I had a visit from my PPU officer who apparently knew nothing about my court hearing or the fact that the police had failed to show up. She promised to chase it up and to her credit came back to me the same day to say that the force’s legal services team had not received any notification of the case. I contacted the court who agreed to send all the relevant paperwork again.

A further month went by and, having heard nothing, I made a further application to the court. I pointed out that if the situation were reversed and the police were seeking an order, the judge would have made a decision in my absence and I suggested that the same principle should apply.

Not long after I received a copy of the police reply to the court which stated that although they never supported applications to discharge SOPO’s, they had no objection to my application. They asked to be excused from further hearings but listed dates that my PPU officer would be available if the judge insisted on them being present.

I’m delighted to say that my SOPO was revoked which meant that my conviction was also spent and I came off the register.

SOPO’s can be over-reacting and over-long but as my experience shows they can be challenged without the need of expensive solicitors. The police may delay things but stick with it, talk to the court and hopefully you’ll have the same result as I did.

By Gerry  (name changed to protect identity)

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