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Story Type: Struggles & Stigma

A little known nuance in the system meant my rehabilitation time was five times longer

My university applications are a cycle of anxiety and embarassment

Amazon, if you ban all applicants with unspent convictions then you’re missing out on a huge amount of talent

Visit Amazon’s website and you’ll read this “We are passionate about creating a diverse workforce to reflect our global customer base and ensure we have diverse perspectives”. Unfortunately, Marc’s experiences of this diversity and inclusivity were very different.


Back in 2015 I received a conviction for offences against my wife (common assault and harassment) which resulted in a prison sentence of 23 months.

My actions were totally out of character and I feel shame and remorse for the way I behaved. I don’t want to be seen as someone that can’t take responsibility for their actions or as somebody that’s just making excuses but at the time I was suffering from undiagnosed PTSD which led to my lack of judgement and irrational behaviour.

The time I spent in prison enabled me to seek help for my PTDS and I left prison better able to deal with the things that had contributed to my offending behaviour.

On leaving prison, I applied for many jobs with little success but managed to get by working in a variety of short term, temporary posts. However, earlier this year I saw a driving job advertised with Amazon. It was an ideal job for me, I loved driving and I had no problem working on my own.

I was delighted to get an interview and knowing that Amazon would carry out a basic DBS check if I was successful, I took the opportunity to disclose my conviction during the interview. This didn’t seem to be a problem for the interviewer and a week later I received a job offer.

I’d been working for the company for approximately 3 weeks when I was telephoned by HR informing me that they had received my basic DBS certificate and that my contract was being terminated due to the information which had been disclosed on it.

To start with I thought they’d made a mistake. I’d assumed that the basic DBS certificate would only be used by Amazon to verify what I’d already told them. But sadly, it was no joke and when I received the formal letter in the post it stated that I was being dismissed for

Gross misconduct for failing to pass a background check.

I tried to appeal Amazon’s decision but my appeal failed.

I’ve subsequently discovered that Amazon have a blanket ban on the recruitment of people with unspent convictions so it was a dot on the card that my appeal wouldn’t be successful.

I loved the time I spent at Amazon (albeit only 3 weeks) and felt proud being part of their team. Although I don’t agree with their blanket ban on recruiting people with unspent convictions, I would have preferred to know from the outset that my application was never going to be progressed. I feel as though I’ve wasted a month of my life when I could have spent the time applying to an employer with more inclusive values.

By Marc (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

This is not the first time Unlock has heard of individuals being dismissed by Amazon for failing a DBS check, despite disclosing unspent convictions during the recruitment process. We are concerned at the implication that applicants can either pass or fail a DBS check, this is certainly not the case – it is the responsibility of the employer to decide who they employ and whether a conviction is relevant to the job they are doing.

As part of our Fair Access to Employment project we have tried to engage with Amazon to encourage them to implement fair and inclusive policies that support the recruitment of people with convictions, without success.

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My conviction is spent but there’s no end to the ongoing consequences of my criminal record

Although it’s possible that Kieran’s autism may have contributed to his inappropriate behaviour in public, he has never used it to excuse what he did. Unfortunately, 2 years on Kieran is still having to live with the consequences of his actions and is finding it difficult to see any future for himself.

It’s probably important for me to say at the start that I have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and so writing articles like this is difficult for me. However I’m going to give it a shot.

At the age of 17 I was arrested for the offence of outraging public decency and in February 2019 received a 12 month youth referral order. Between my arrest and going to court I was given a conditional caution for a similar incident which happened when I was travelling on a train on my way to college. I deeply regret both of these incidents.

I was in my second year at college studying for a Diploma in Travel and Tourism when I was arrested for the incident on the train. As a result of this I was suspended from college pending the result of the police investigation. The investigation seemed to go on forever and eventually I dropped out of college and never got my qualification.

Word quickly got around my local neighbourhood about my conviction. It seemed as though my neighbours thought I’d got off lightly with a referral order and kept reporting me for things I hadn’t done. I was regularly being arrested but none of these incidents were taken any further by the police as I was able to prove that they were nothing to do with me.

Following my conviction I worked with the Youth Offending Team who were absolutely brilliant. I managed to gain employment as a customer advisor for a large organisation, working nights. I was still being arrested regularly (nothing ever came of these) but luckily my employer never became aware of these.

I quickly got promoted to a trainee pharmacy advisor and transferred to another store. The arrests continued and on one occasion, I was arrested at work. Of course my manager started asking me a lot of questions when I returned for my next shift but when I explained about the false allegations he was happy for me to continue working.

Understandably however, after so many allegations the local police started to get really suspicious and began to believe that there might be some truth to the allegations that were being made against me and decided to apply for a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO). Within 3 months of the application being submitted to the court, an indefinite SHPO was issued and from that day forward, my life fell apart.

I lost my job, my income and ended up in £5,000 of debt. I’ve now moved away from the area that I’d previously lived in and I’m pleased to say that the allegations have completely stopped. I’m now looking for a new job which is proving to be extremely difficult as I have to disclose the SHPO every time I am asked about convictions. Knowing that the SHPO will be in place forever means that I don’t even have an end date to look forward to.

I recently attempted to end my life and was found on a bridge by the police. I was sectioned and sent to a psychiatric hospital for approximately 4 weeks. I am on medication for anxiety and since being sectioned I have attempted to end my life several times. I am not in a good place at all.

I had always had two main goals:

  • To travel the world or work within the travel industry, and
  • To begin socialising (due to my autism I find this hard) and start a relationship.

Unfortunately I can no longer travel the world as the majority of places I want to visit will need a visa which I won’t get as I have a criminal record and I’m on the sex offenders register. It’s also going to affect my chances of finding somebody to start a relationship with – I don’t want to put anybody else through this and I wouldn’t want a relationship where I couldn’t be open and truthful.

I now find that I don’t want to get up in the mornings. I have a lot of suicidal thoughts, I just don’t want to exist. I have a lot of debt that I can’t repay and nothing to live for.

I have only recently come to terms with the fact that one mistake has caused all this to happen. It’s put a terrible strain on my family. My mum doesn’t want anything more to do with me and as my sister is only 16 I’m only occasionally allowed to see her when my father is present.

I’m not posting this because I want sympathy – I understand that what I did was wrong. I am posting this as I’d like to raise awareness of what it’s like to be convicted of a sexual offence and the consequences afterwards.

By Kieran (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

In September 2020 Unlock, together with the Prison Reform Trust published a joint report, ‘Thinking Differently’ exploring employers attitudes towards the recruitment of people convicted of sexual offences. Research showed that employers discriminate generally against people with convictions but those convicted of sexual offences are the most stigmatised. The report sets out a number of recommendations to address the barriers faced by those convicted of a sexual offence who are looking to get back into employment.

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The hopelessness of IPP sentences

At the start of 2020 there were 2,223 people in prison serving IPP sentences, despite the fact that they’d been abolished in 2012. A sentence with no end date is brutal and many have taken their own lives due to the hopelessness of their situation. Susan was given a minimum term of 15 months but was still in prison 11.5 years later.

I was sentenced to five years in prison following my involvement in a tax fraud. I’d never been in any trouble with the police prior to this and the conviction came about due to some really bad business decisions I’d made. However, whatever the reason I’d still broken the law and it was right that I was punished.

Nobody can imagine what prison is going to be like, any insight we have we get from TV dramas or documentaries. I was 38 when I went to prison and, as I waited to be ‘processed’ I remember being absolutely terrified. I knew I’d be out in 2.5 years but I didn’t know how I was going to cope and I was convinced that I’d never laugh or smile during that time.

The reality was very different. If you keep your head down and do your time, then it’s bearable. The boredom and being away from my family were the worst things but I made some incredibly special friends; friends that I’m still in contact with to this day. We supported each other and although we all experienced bad days when the tears came quickly and easily we also laughed a lot.

One of the biggest eye openers for me was the amount of young women who were in prison as a result of issues with drink, drugs or their mental health. For some, prison was a godsend, a chance to get clean, to get help and to start seeing hope for the future. Sadly for others, prison meant that their mental health deteriorated even more and self-harming was pretty common place.

It was in prison that I first came across IPP sentences – Imprisonment for Public Protection. These are a form of indeterminate sentence with a minimum jail term but no maximum term. I regularly heard girls refer to them as an ‘In Prison Permanently’ sentence which perhaps gives you some idea of how long people end up staying in prison.

I met Susan (not her real name) on my second day when we were queuing up for dinner. Her first words were:

Don’t get the beef stew, it’s worse than dog food.

I didn’t see Susan again for several weeks. She later told me that she’d been put in the ‘Seg’ (the Care and Separation Unit) after she’d ‘kicked-off’ at an officer. Rows and time in the ‘Seg’ were regular occurrences for Susan as were incidents of self-harming which often led to us all being locked in our cells whilst she received medical attention.

Four months into my sentence and I got a job as a wing cleaner along with Susan. We both worked hard and got through the work quickly which gave us a chance to have a tea-break. It was then, when there were just the two of us that I started to see the real Susan. She told me that she’d been given an IPP sentence with a minimum term of 15 months, but she’d already been in prison for 3.5 years and wouldn’t be released until the Parole Board gave their permission. She’d been addicted to drink and drugs and already had several convictions for shoplifting, possession and violence before her IPP sentence but she was clean and was starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

During those tea breaks we spoke about everything and I came to know a bright, funny, intelligent young woman with the same hopes and dreams as anybody else her age.

2.5 years on as I was preparing for release Susan was still in prison. However, she was a lot less positive about the future and her release and she’d started spending a lot more time alone in her cell becoming increasingly isolated.

I wrote to her many times after I’d left prison but never received a response and after 18 months or so, I gave up trying – I wish I hadn’t.

Five years after leaving prison and my life was ticking along nicely. I’d got a job which offered me plenty of opportunity to work overtime and I’d started putting some money into a savings account so I could go on holiday. Having decided on a destination I started trawling the internet for deals when a BBC news item caught my eye. Something about IPP sentences.

I clicked on the link and halfway down the page were three photographs of three young women; one of them was Susan. As I began to read I discovered that the story was about the impact of IPP sentences on women but shockingly, all three women in the photographs had taken their own lives.

Susan’s mum had been interviewed by the journalist and explained how after being in prison for 11.5 years, her daughter had given up all hope of ever being released and couldn’t bear the thought of spending one more year in prison. She’d killed herself in her cell on 31 December.

I couldn’t believe that the bright, funny, intelligent young woman I’d known had felt so abandoned and let down by the system. Susan’s mum couldn’t have put it better when she said:

To live without hope is to cease to live.

By Denise (name changed to protect identity)

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  • Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum

Fresh starts are over-rated – all I want is a stable job with the same employer

Being a hard worker with some impressive skills, it’s natural that Steve’s employers would want him to work on prestigious government contracts. However, with a conviction from 25 years ago, passing security vetting has been almost impossible for him.

I was convicted of common assault almost 25 years ago after a domestic incident with my then wife.

Very briefly, during the course of an argument my ex she hit me several times with a metal bar that she’d found in my indoor tool box. In self-defence, I struck out and my hand hit her on the side of her head, knocking her over and causing her to fall against our coffee table. Shocked at what had occurred, I grabbed my coat and left.

I stayed at my brother’s house that night and the next morning at the factory where I worked the police turned up and I was arrested. I had sustained from the previous night a fractured thumb, a bad cut to my ear, a deep scratch on my neck and bruising to my upper arm and shoulder blade. I was in pain.

My wife had accused me of beating her and knocking her out. She also alleged that I frequently beat my 6 year old son and was regularly drunk. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I hardly ever drank at home and never went out to the pub drinking. I worshipped my wife and son and I’d never laid a finger on either of them ever. She’d told the police that I’d been having an affair (completely untrue) which was what had provoked the argument and ‘beating’.

Later that week, my wife contacted me asking whether we could meet up to discuss a way forward. The police had told me not to have any contact with her prior to going to court and so I refused. She started yelling down the phone being really abusive and my brother who could hear everything, suggested that I just go and see what she wanted. I met her outside a shop in full public view as protection for both of us.  

It was only then that I found out from her that she was on antidepressants, which had led to some irrational mood swings. She told me that in the 9 years we’d been married, she’d had 2 affairs and was in debt to some bloke that lived in our village. She went on to say that all her friends were single, going out and having a good time and she felt left out.

I was totally clueless about any of this (although I later found out that most of it was common knowledge in our village). I felt sick, devastated and ashamed. I considered killing myself but instead went to my brother’s house, sitting up half the night talking about my marriage and situation – thankfully, he’s a really good listener.

At court a month later I was convicted of common assault, fined £1500 and given 40 weeks community service. I was told that I couldn’t see my son unless there was somebody else present.

After the court hearing I was ostracised by many people in the village who wanted nothing to do with me. They were all of the opinion that my wife was the innocent victim and I was nothing more than a thug. I couldn’t live like that and decided to turn my back on it all.

I moved 400 miles away but continued to pay most of my salary on maintenance to support my wife and child.

For the first 5 years I struggled to get work but somehow managed to survive. Once my conviction was spent it became easier and I found myself a decent job with a good salary. Things were going well until the company I was working for won a contract to work on UK and US air bases. All contract staff had to be security checked and as my conviction was spent and 12 years old, I didn’t think I needed to disclose it. Not long after, I was called into the office and told that I’d failed the security checks and that the company couldn’t keep me on. I was offered the sack or redundancy.

I was a good craftsman who always worked hard so it was disappointing to be unemployed again.   I eventually found another job but came up against similar issues when I needed to work in certain parts of hospitals and schools. I couldn’t face the embarrassment of explaining my conviction so I’d  leave before I had to have any DBS checks done.  

21 years on from my conviction and I’ve been working for the same employer for 5 years now. However two weeks ago I was told that we’d just been awarded a new contract and I’ll have to attend  government buildings. I was given a security checking form to fill out and despite staring at it and half completing it, I knew I just couldn’t go through the rejection again and so I handed in my notice.

I didn’t tell my employer the real reason I was leaving and I know they are really annoyed with me because I’ve had a lot of money invested in me doing training courses.

I’ve started applying for other jobs but I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to get a reference from my last employer and I know I can’t get security clearance all because of my old conviction.  My savings have already stated to dwindle and I reckon I may have to try to move out of the area now for another fresh start.

By Steve (name changed to protect identity)

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Employers, if you’ve got a blanket ban on recruiting people with unspent convictions, just tell us

Despite disclosing his unspent conviction on two occasions, Isaac was amazed to learn that his new employer had withdrawn their job offer due to a blanket ban on the recruitment of people with unspent convictions.

I met my ex-girlfriend when we were studying for our ‘A’ levels and we were together until the start of my second year at university. By then, I knew that once I’d finished my degree I would be moving to London to pursue a career in management consultancy and I was totally driven in my desire to secure a graduate position with a global management consultancy firm.

Call me selfish but I knew that I would have little time for girlfriends and so, not wishing to ‘lead her on’, I ended the relationship.

It became clear that she’d thought our relationship was forever and she was absolutely distraught when I told her it was over. Like many men, I didn’t know how to deal with her tears or emotion and when she begged me to stay over so that we could talk things through, I couldn’t see how that would make things any better. As I tried to walk out, she clung onto me shouting and screaming at me; I pushed her away and left.

The next day, the police turned up at my house and I was arrested for an alleged assault on my girlfriend. At the police station I had an opportunity to speak to the duty solicitor and I explained everything to him. I was really upset to think that I might have caused her any harm (I certainly hadn’t intended to) and although being charged with common assault seemed harsh, I readily accepted that I had pushed her. The solicitor recommended that I plead guilty. He thought that I’d probably get a fine but importantly, it would mean that my girlfriend wouldn’t have to attend court and we could both get on with our lives.

Sadly, that wasn’t what happened and I walked out of court with a 6 month community order and a restraining order. I finished the unpaid work requirement quickly and before I knew it, the community order had come to an end.

I continued to study hard and went on to get a first.

A year and a half after I’d been to court I applied for my basic DBS check. I had just started applying for graduate positions and wanted to have my blank DBS certificate to share with future employers if I needed to. However, when my certificate arrived it wasn’t blank. I hadn’t realised that the 3 year restraining order I’d received had a rehabilitation order all of it’s own which meant that my conviction was still unspent.

Although this was a huge disappointment, I couldn’t do anything about it and I needed to remain focused on my end goal. So, instead of getting down and depressed I spent time thinking about the best way of disclosing my conviction.

I applied for several graduate posts including one with the organisation I’d always wanted to work for. There were no questions on the application form asking about unspent convictions and at the time, I took this to be an encouraging sign.

I was invited to attend an interview which went very well and when I was asked at the end if I had any questions it felt like the right time to disclose my conviction. The interview panel thanked me for my honesty and told me that if I were successful they would carry out background checks and it may be necessary for me to disclose again.

A month later, I was in receipt of two job offers, one of them being from my preferred organisation. Before accepting the offer, I wanted to know for sure that my criminal record wouldn’t be an issue and so I made an appointment to speak with one of the HR managers. During that meeting, I disclosed my conviction again and was told:

I can’t see it being a problem but we’ll have to wait until the background checks have been done.

Knowing that my DBS would merely confirm what I’d already told them, I felt slightly more reassured and the same day turned down the job offer from the second employer.

The background checks took a while but I eventually received an email stating that the employer now had all the information they needed and would be in touch shortly with a start date. Two days later I could barely contain my excitement when I saw another email in my inbox from my new employer. However, rather than setting out details of my start date, the email stated that the job offer was being withdrawn due to my unspent conviction. The letter went on to say that this decision was final.

I have since had numerous conversations with the employer about their policy in relation to the employment of people with a criminal record and it seems clear that they have a blanket ban on the recruitment of anybody with an unspent conviction. I find it incredible that having disclosed my conviction on two occasions, nobody thought to tell me that my application could not be progressed. I would obviously have been disappointed but I’d have come to terms with that and applied elsewhere.

This failure to be upfront at the start has meant that I’ve turned down a job with another employer who may not have had a problem with my criminal record. I’ve been left out of pocket with my confidence at an all time low.

By Isaac (name changed to protect identity)

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Why do I still have to fight for everything when my conviction was almost 4 years ago?

Whether you’re applying for a college/university course or a job, disclosing a conviction could potentially make it more difficult. Is it any surprise therefore that some people with a criminal record never reach their full potential simply because the fight goes out of them.

In 2015 I came to the UK from the Czech Republic where I’d taught 1st grade primary school children. Although I was a university graduate with a Master of Teaching in the Czech Republic, I had to demonstrate that I was able to teach in the UK and not long after I arrived, I was awarded the Qualified Teacher Status. It felt incredible and I was so happy.

I was offered a job working as a general teaching assistant and, only a few weeks into my new job I was given the task of working on a one-to-one basis with a 4 year old boy who was on the autistic spectrum. He was finding it extremely hard to settle into the school environment and needed extra support.

Lucas (not his real name) could be quite difficult to work with; he was aggressive towards the other children and me, and there were times that he would be a danger to himself. As he got to know me, we started to gel but I had never worked with children with special educational needs before or experienced such behaviour and there were times when I found it quite shocking but, I persevered.

Six months after I’d started working with him, his behaviour suddenly escalated to a level that I’d never seen before and I didn’t know what to do, he was totally out of control. As a last resort, I smacked him across the bottom. I realised straight away that I’d made a huge mistake and immediately went to find my manager and tell her what had happened. I thought we’d be able to talk through the situation and then decide a course of action (more training, a warning etc). Sadly I wasn’t given that opportunity, just suspended from duty.

It took 5 months for the school to conduct a fact finding meeting and in that time I was told that I couldn’t go near the school. Colleagues who I’d thought of as friends ignored me. In the May of that year I went to the police station to give a voluntary statement and in the September I was charged – assault by beating. My case went to court in January 2017 and I was found guilty. The magistrate expressed his disapproval at the lack of training the school had provided me with.

After the court case I had to wait another 6 months to find out that the DBS were not going to add me to the children’s barred list and this gave me a glimmer of hope that my career wasn’t finished.

For the next two years finding a full time job was almost impossible and so I cleaned houses whilst also working as a very part-time nanny. As it became more and more difficult to earn a regular income I signed on with the job centre and, after telling my ‘story’ to the work coach she arranged for me to meet with a recruitment agency.

The meeting couldn’t have gone better and the agency took me on. It took 3 months for my DBS certificate to arrive but once it did, I started working as a nursery nurse.

Whilst I’d been doing my cleaning job I’d been accepted onto a level 2 counselling course at a local college. I’d disclosed my conviction and been told by the course leader that it wouldn’t be a problem for the course but may present some difficulties in the future if I wanted to work in this field. I decided to face that bridge when I came to it and so I started the course.

I found it really interesting but also demanding and not everyone that started it managed to finish. However, I felt quite confident going onto level 3. I was surprised therefore to be called in to see the course leader who told me (in an extremely hostile way) that my application to move onto the level 3 course was being refused on the basis of my criminal record.

As part of my course we’d had to work through our own personal issues, be open about ourselves and learn what it’s like to feel vulnerable. Maybe that’s why I’m so surprised and disappointed that a trained counsellor and course leader could have spoken to me and treated me in the way she did.

I want to appeal the college’s decision but I need to mentally prepare myself first. I’d really like to use my own experiences to help others but sometimes you just get dragged down with having to fight for every chance or opportunity.

By Galina (name changed to protect identity)

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Mistakes made by probation should be a cause of concern to all

Back in 2014, Chris Grayling introduced the privatisation of the probation service. The system was heavily criticised by MP’s and Mary’s story demonstrates just what was going wrong.


Several years ago, along with an accomplice, I “earned” approximately £2000 by claiming refunds for items I owned which I declared were faulty when in fact they were not – this is legally defined as fraud by false representation. I claimed for 6 items in total over a 2 week period before realising how stupid I had been.

Approximately 6 months later and totally out of the blue, I received a text message from my accomplice telling me that he’d just been raided by the police; his computers had been seized and he’d been asked to attend a voluntary interview at the police station. He was advised by his solicitor to do a ‘no comment’ interview.

As you can imagine, I was extremely worried that the police would visit me too; every night I went to bed not knowing whether I’d get a knock on the door the next day. It finally came 4 months later.

The police removed all of my electronic devices and ‘invited’ me to attend an interview and it was only then that I discovered my accomplice had continued with his offending behaviour.

To start with, our case went to the Magistrates Court but was then transferred to the Crown Court. Prior to my appearance in court I was sent a letter by the probation team with a whole raft of questions, for example “what had led to my offending, what were the chances of my offending again?” Considering I’d not entered any plea, it felt quite presumptuous of probation to assume I was guilty.

At the end of the court hearing I was sentenced to 9 months in prison, suspended for two years with a requirement to attend sessions with my probation officer throughout my sentence.

I received my first letter from probation a month later and was surprised to read that I’d apparently missed my initial appointment and, unless I could explain my reasons for this within the next 5 days, I would be returned to court. Of course, I contacted my probation officer immediately and she accepted my explanation that I’d never received any details of that first appointment.

Over the next month, I attended four meetings before being told that the probation office would be closing but I’d be sent details of the new office to report to. I heard nothing more for 4 months and, growing more and more concerned that I should have been attending meetings, I rang the office. I was told that my probation officer was away but she’d call me back.

A further 2.5 months passed before I was given another appointment and this was only because I’d made it my business to chase up probation. On the day of my meeting, my ‘usual’ probation officer wasn’t available and so I was seen by somebody else. Once again, I was told I’d be sent a follow up appointment and once again, I heard nothing.

I’m sure I’d have heard nothing more from probation were in not for the fact that I decided to enrol for a course at my local college. As my conviction was still unspent I had to disclose it and I was asked by the college to attend a risk assessment and also, to provide the contact details for my probation officer.

This appeared to spark some renewed interest from probation and I went on to have another two meetings until once again, my officer went off sick. Once again, this lack of a named probation officer resulted in another allegation of a missed appointment and a further letter threatening me with a return to court.

This catalogue of errors must be hard to believe but I can assure you that I’m not the only one. The following was a headline in The Times newspaper:

Public at risk after privatised probation firm lost offenders.

The paper reported that a probation company had lost track of individuals it was supervising and others hadn’t been seen for months. It highlighted a combination of unmanageable caseloads and inexperienced officers.

I did everything I could to try to engage with probation. I didn’t want to miss appointments, my only wish was to complete the sentence given to me and move on.

I hope that once the probation service is bought back under public control early next year, we’ll no longer see this kind of mismanagement happening again.

By Mary (name changed to protect identity)

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

Organisations can’t be diverse or inclusive until HR professionals recognise the value of people with convictions

Despite having worked as a nurse for many years, Janice feels that HR departments are more interested in her conviction from 20 years ago than her abilities as a nurse.

I’ve been a nurse for over 11 years and have worked in the same hospital department for the last 10 years.

One of the great things about working as a nurse and, in particular, being part of the NHS was the fact that there was always the opportunity for career progression. With hard work, drive and motivation it was possible for somebody starting out as a staff nurse to move into executive and clinical leadership roles.

The application process was relatively simple too. When promotion opportunities became available, we’d drop an email to our matron expressing our interest. Those making the recruitment decisions knew that our training was up-to-date and that we’d have regular checks carried out relevant for our role. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t shown any favoritism, in some cases being known to the department really went against you. The only thing we could avoid was having to fill in lengthy application forms.

However, over the last 2 years things have changed and we now have to apply for all jobs through, a website which is independent of the NHS and the Department of Health. Every time I apply for a new role, I now have to disclose my conviction from 20 years ago and this has seemed to somewhat stall my career progression.

Trac have told me that they will discuss any disclosed convictions with the relevant appointing manager and from my own experience, the way that a person with a criminal record is perceived seems to have changed over time. When I applied for my first job with the Trust, I disclosed my conviction; it wasn’t an easy discussion but by then, my conviction was over 10 years old and the Trust presumably took the view that I had the necessary skills and experience and I did not pose any risk to my patients or colleagues.

Since the new process has come into force, I’ve applied for 3 promotions within my current department and have been unsuccessful in all of them. I’ve been told that I’m well qualified yet each job has gone to a less experienced person. It seems that after 20 years, my conviction is still more relevant to HR than my ability to do the job.

I feel like I’m being assessed again and again and my career is being continuously decided by a mistake I made over 20 years ago.

By Janice (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

As the role of a nurse is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, these employers can carry out enhanced criminal record checks. However, it seems as though Janice is being asked to self-disclose her criminal record prior to any recruitment decision being made which, under GDPR isn’t proportionate.

Sadly, Unlock regularly sees examples of employers who are either extremely risk averse or have a zero-tolerance approach to DBS checks. This is why our fair access to employment project continues to support employers in implementing fairer and more inclusive recruitment polices and procedures and challenge those who have unlawful recruitment practices.

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