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Unlock Co-director wins ‘Social Justice Campaigner’ Award

We’re delighted to report that our Co-director, Julie Harmsworth, has been announced as the winner of the ‘Social Justice Campaigner’ award at the SMK Campaigner Awards held in London last night.

The awards, run by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation and held at the House of Lords, are a celebration of people who demonstrate their commitment to and effectiveness in tackling the root causes of injustice and inequality, be it over the last year or over many years.

The Social Justice Campaigner Award was presented to Julie by Campbell Robb, CEO of Shelter, for her role in campaigning to make changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act that reduce the disclosure periods for people with convictions when they apply for things like jobs and insurance.

Commenting on the announcement, Julie said:

‘It’s such a great honour to be given this award. I share it wholly with colleagues at Unlock and all those who have supported our campaign to amend a law that effectively excluded people with convictions from becoming active, hard-working, law-abiding members of their communities.


‘After thirteen years of campaigning the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act was amended in 2014 and the effect was immediate. A reduction of the length of disclosure periods meant that 1.75 million people with would no longer face discrimination in getting a job or insuring their homes.


‘As one person wrote to us: “Thank you for all your persistence and perseverance for people like us who made a petty mistake when we were young and had to bear the consequences for such a long time. The changes means we can have a new beginning on a clean slate and have a fantastic future to look forward to and we won’t be held down. You have changed our lives for the better.”


‘Many of the issues that existed at the start of our campaign, still remain. We have much more work to do. Receiving the award will, I am certain, give us all an injection of renewed energy, and inspire us to continue to campaign and to stand up for what we, at Unlock, believe in.’

Linda Butcher, SMK’s chief executive said: ‘Sheila McKechnie was a campaigning force of nature – one of the most eloquent and effective campaigners of her generation. She stood up against inequality wherever she saw and heard it, campaigning to create lasting change throughout her life, notably in areas such as health and safety, housing and homelessness and consumer rights.

‘The SMK Campaigner Awards provide us with a unique opportunity to recognise and thank some of the inspiring, innovative and often courageous people who are speaking out to effect change. All of our winners this year are a credit to the causes and communities they serve and demonstrate the important role campaigners play within our democracy.  Congratulations to Julie for all her hard work and her well-deserved award.’

The 2015 awards were presented by author and broadcaster Muriel Gray and attended by politicians Zac Goldsmith and Victor Abebowale.

Want to support our campaign and policy work? Find out how to support us here


Notes to editors


  1. Unlock is an independent award-winning charity, providing trusted information, advice and support for people with criminal convictions. Our staff and volunteers combine professional training with personal experience to help others overcome the long-term problems that having a conviction can bring. Our knowledge and insight helps us to work with government, employers and others, to change policies and practices to create a fairer and more inclusive society so that people with convictions can move on in their lives.
  2. More information about the SMK awards is available at
  3. Our website is
  4. Want to support our campaign and policy work? Find out how to support us here.

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Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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