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Reflections on the last decade from a person with a criminal record

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As we enter a new decade, Amy looks back at her experiences over the past 10 years.

Stepping into 2020, I’m sure you can’t have failed to notice the huge amount of people that joined in the Instagram 10-Year Challenge, posting photographs of themselves in 2010 and then in 2020. Don’t worry, I’m not going to join them, because unlike Reese Witherspoon or Tyra Banks, I actually do look older not younger than I did 10 years ago.

However, as 2020 dawns, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the previous 10 years and thought I’d take the opportunity to share this with you.

When I woke up on 1st January 2010 with a humongous hangover I knew for sure that the next few years were not going to be great for me. I’d been charged with fraud just prior to Christmas and was expecting to go to court early in 2010.

My solicitor had told me that I was definitely looking at a prison sentence and it was likely to be around 3 years. I’d spent Christmas just going through the motions but every time I did something it was as though I was doing it for the last time and I was continually fighting back the tears. I know this sounds incredibly dramatic but please understand, my brain was mush and I really didn’t know what the future held for me.

My solicitor was right about the prison sentence, although the judge decided that a 3-year sentence wasn’t long enough and gave me 4.5 years instead. Funnily enough, I actually felt a sense of relief at this point – the investigation and court case had come to an end and I could now start my new life, whatever that may be.

I’m not going to go into a blow by blow account of prison life. For those of you that have been, you know what it’s like and for those of you that haven’t been – I wouldn’t recommend it. There were only really two stand out moments of my time in prison, the first was winning an appeal against my sentence meaning it was reduced from 4.5 years to 3, and the second was being released.

1st January 2013 and I’d been home for 6 months. I had a job working in retail which was a totally new field for me and was just about to move into my own house with my husband and son (we’d all been living with my mum following my release from prison). As 2013 would see my licence come to an end and my regular meetings with probation finish, I had a pretty positive feeling about 2013.

On 1st January 2014 I did what lots of people do on New Year’s Day and booked my first holiday abroad since 2006. I was off licence so didn’t need to get approval from my probation officer and I was in a new job (the same one I’m in today). Another year of good things to look forward to.

The years between 2015 and 2019 seem to have flown by, some have been better than others and there have been times when my criminal record has reared it’s head again. My choices around who to buy house insurance from have remained limited due to the need to disclose a fraud conviction although I was able to revert to a high street insurer for motor insurance in 2015 as they only wanted me to disclose criminal convictions I’d received in the last 5 years.

Being asked to act as Executor of my aunt’s estate made me question whether I’d need to disclose details of my criminal record – I didn’t – and when my niece got engaged in 2017, I’ve since had to think long and hard about applying for a visa to attend her wedding in the States at the end of 2020 – I still haven’t decided.

And so to 1st January 2020.

No hangover for me. New Year’s Eve was spent surrounded by family and friends. I didn’t need alcohol to blot out the bad stuff; I wanted to remember every part of the new memories that I was making.

My son and his girlfriend both have ‘big’ birthdays in 2020 and there was lots of talk around the dinner table comparing the pros and cons of a party -v- family holiday. I feel blessed that prison didn’t alter the great relationship I had with my husband or son. It was a difficult time for them but they supported me throughout my sentence and after.

In a strange way it’s probably fitting that my conviction becomes spent in 2020 – at the start of a new decade. I’m sure many people would look back over these last ten years as the worst of their lives but I don’t see it like that. I can remember 1st January 2010 as if it were yesterday – my life was chaotic and I was a mess but the shock of my arrest and being sent to prison was the wake-up call I needed to reassess what was important to me.

They say that every face tells a story and if I were to take the Instagram 10-Year Challenge I might not look younger but I look genuinely happier.

By Amy  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on the seven stages of a criminal record.

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