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No future without forgiveness – why the government should change the current filtering system

Phil never felt as though he’d reached his true potential due to his conviction for criminal damage. However, the thought that it would be filtered from standard and enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks gave him hope for the future, until he realised that his offences weren’t eligible for filtering.

I was nearly 17 when I fell madly in love for the first time and just over 17 when she dumped me. As I was feeling so sorry for myself my mates decided to take me out for a game of pool and get me drunk.

Sadly, rather than being a ‘happy drunk’ I became a very ‘angry, sorry for myself drunk’ and decided to take my anger out on the window of the local supermarket. As the alarm sounded I started to run but, just my luck, the police just happened to be sitting round the corner and arrested me. There was little point in denying what I’d done so I got myself a conviction for criminal damage to go with my broken heart.

Since then I’ve never been in trouble with the law; this happened over 20 years ago. I’m married with a family and although I’ve never been out of work, I’m pretty sure that I could have achieved more for myself if I’d been prepared to apply for jobs where I needed to disclose my criminal record; but I never did. I guess I’m responsible for limiting my own career and financial prospects.

The only time I’ve ever spoken to anybody about my criminal record was when my kids were younger and wanted to go to Disneyland. I knew I’d have to apply for a visa from the Embassy and I couldn’t let my family down – luckily the Embassy granted me my visa and we had a fantastic holiday. The only problem is that whenever a new employer asks to see my passport to prove that I’ve got the right to work in the UK, I worry that they’ll see the visa and put two and two together.

In lots of ways, I feel my life is good but there’s always the nagging doubt at the back of my mind that I could have achieved so much more if only I didn’t have a criminal record. It was this that spurred me on to do some voluntary work. I kept expecting to be asked about my criminal record but I never was and, as time went on, I really started to feel that I was making a difference to the lives of the clients I worked with.

Then in 2013 I read about ‘filtering’. As I only had that one conviction which hadn’t resulted in a prison sentence it seemed as though I’d be able to have it filtered from a standard and enhanced DBS check. I wasn’t really sure if it was ever something I’d be able to benefit from as I wasn’t working in a job that needed me to have these kind of checks – I guess it was just good to know.

However, one evening when I was volunteering I got chatting to one of the managers over a cup of tea. He told me that I was doing a great job and asked me whether I’d ever considered applying for a paid job. When I told him that I’d never worked in that field and didn’t have any experience he roared with laughter.

What do you think you’re doing now you fool?”

He told me to have a look at their website and encouraged me to apply for the support workers role.

Knowing that my conviction would now be filtered off my DBS certificate and that I had the support of one of the managers, I decided to give it a go.

Wanting to find out whether I needed to apply to have my conviction filtered, I started to do some further research. I couldn’t believe it when I found out from the DBS that my conviction was one which would never be filtered. Apparently filtering was based upon the Act that you’d been convicted under and although the description of the Act (Destroying or damaging property endangering life) bore little relation to what my offence had been there was little I could do. In theory, I could have endangered life by smashing the window but the shop was closed and there was nobody around.

I was devastated that what I’d thought would be the answer to all my prayers had been so quickly snatched away. I’m now trying to decide what I should do; disclose my conviction and risk being turned down or withdraw and just continue to volunteer – I’m guessing this would look pretty suspicious.

I’ve been following the case that Unlock has taken to the Supreme Court with interest. If they’re successful I’m not sure whether I would benefit but in any event, there are a lot of people struggling more than me as a result of a very old conviction.

By Phil (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock

The case in the Supreme Court was really significant for anybody with a criminal record. Whatever the result of the case, we believe that the government needs to revisit its approach and accept that there’s problems with the current system. Sadly, the government doesn’t seem to think there’s any need for change. Perhaps that’s just the position they feel they have to take because of the legal cases. Only time will tell.

Useful links

  1. Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  2. Information – We have some practical self-help information on filtering
  3. Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to this on our online forum.


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