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Why are insurance companies still discriminating against those with a criminal record?

Having just gone through the process of renewing his car and home insurance policies, Leo asks why more isn’t being done to challenge the excessive premiums insurance companies are imposing on people with a criminal record.


I was convicted of fraud in March 2017 and received a 5 year prison sentence. This was my first experience of the criminal justice system.

I now fully appreciate the stigma and prejudice those with a criminal record suffer, particularly when trying to obtain insurance for their home or car.

Under the Insurance Act 2015, a policyholder has a ‘duty of fair presentation of risk’. This means that an individual must be honest and if asked, declare any unspent convictions to an insurance company.

Unfortunately, it seems that the insurance industry views the disclosure of convictions as an automatic right to increase premiums, even when the conviction has NO adverse effect on the insurance you’re trying to obtain.

My conviction is for fraud. How does this impact on my car insurance? Does my conviction make my driving worse, and therefore make me a bad risk? If anything, I now have a job which is far less stressful that the one I had prior to my conviction which means I’m much calmer, less tired and less rushed. I’m also still on licence so always mindful of my actions – worried that a potential slip up could see me recalled to prison. So all in all less of a risk all round. However, my car insurance premium hasn’t been reduced to reflect that.

When I was looking to renew my car insurance many insurers simply refused point blank to insure me and those that did wanted to increase my premium from between £400 to £800. As my conviction will never be spent, I’ll incur these increased premiums and prejudice for the rest of my life.

I’ve had a similar experience with my home insurance – none of the well-known high-street insurers will quote for home insurance once you’ve got a criminal record.

I fully appreciate that if my conviction was for a driving offence or arson then this will, and probably should increase my premium. I have no problem with disclosing my unspent conviction but I feel that the insurance company should look at its relevancy, rather than immediately upping my premium.

Doesn’t the insurance industry have a duty to treat its customers fairly? I don’t see this happening and I don’t see them being challenged because of it.

What’s more baffling is, if premiums are based on risk then why aren’t insurance companies asking all customers questions about their drug and alcohol intake or whether they’re taking prescription medication for stress or depression – wouldn’t these factors potentially lead to more ‘risky’ behaviour.

The insurance industry is making millions of pounds each year by increasing the premiums of people with unspent convictions. Isn’t it time that they were challenged and asked to provide evidence that people with convictions have more accidents or make more claims than those without a criminal record.

By Leo  (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock

Since 2000 we’ve worked hard to try to make it easier for people with a criminal record to get genuine cover at a fair price.

However, there’s still a lot that needs improving and we’re continuing to push the insurance industry to use evidence-based risk-pricing models as well as monitoring the questions that insurers ask about criminal records to ensure they’re not taking spent convictions into account.

Useful links

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


Now I’ve got my professional indemnity insurance, I can start to believe that the best is yet to come

Bruce has worked hard to turn his life around after receiving a conviction two years ago. For a while however, it looked as though all his efforts would come to nothing when he was struggling to get insurance for his fledgling business.



In November 2016 I received a conviction for downloading indecent images and received a suspended sentence.

From the very first interview I had with the police, I couldn’t explain why I had downloaded and viewed those images as I knew in my heart that I’d never hurt a child in any way. I knew it was important that I got to the bottom of why I’d done what I did.

For four months following my conviction, I sold practically everything I owned to finance a course for people with sexual offences run by the Lucy Faithful Foundation. Over the course of the 10 week course, I came to understand how my use of porn to offset depression and stress led to an addiction to pornography and ultimately to my downloading indecent images. The course helped me to appreciate the pain and anguish behind the smiling images I’d been looking at and the abhorrent reality those kids were forced to live in.

There’s no escaping the shame and guilt I feel for what I did and the empathy I now have for the victims. In addition, I’ve had to come to terms with the impact my offending and conviction has had on my wife and family and I hope that over time I’ll be able to make amends and prove that I’m a better man than I was before.

Knowing why I did what I did allowed me to work through processes to ensure I’ll never re-offend again and start rebuilding my life.

Initially I was very optimistic; I walked out of court grateful for the chance to start again, a new beginning, a new improved me. The justice system and fate had given me the chance to prove myself and make a new future.

After finding it almost impossible to get a full time job due to my obligation to disclose my offence when asked, I decided to set up my own limited company. I could then do some of the contract work that was being offered to me.

I set up my website, organised business cards etc and began to set about marketing my consultancy. Four weeks ago I secured a really lucrative six month contract with a company, only to have it withdrawn when I disclosed my offence.

It was during this time that I also realised that it was virtually impossible to get professional indemnity insurance meaning I couldn’t put work through the company I’d set up. I never for one minute thought that getting insurance was going to be the thing that bought my business to a halt before it had even started.

I have always worked since leaving school and now more than ever needed to keep the money coming in so I could support myself and pay my way without being a burden on society.

However, now, no matter what I did, the requirement to disclose my offence stopped me from moving forward. As a self-employed person, I felt that fewer people would ask me about my criminal record and, having my own business would be the best option for me. The problem with insurance really started to make me panic as I didn’t know what I’d do when the money ran out.

After some further internet research, I came across Unlock and their list of insurance brokers and after ringing around I managed to get myself some professional indemnity insurance. It wasn’t the most competitively priced but it was affordable which was all that mattered to me. This has given my confidence a real boost and I’ve started to see light at the end of the tunnel. The requirement to disclose is still going to be an issue I am sure but at least now I have more of a chance to support myself and hopefully build on the foundations I now have in place for a successful business.

This is strange to say but the criminal justice system has worked for me. My increasingly introvert lifestyle and resulting unhappy home life was fuelling a downward spiral of depression and unhappiness that had me on a road that was only going to lead to tragedy. My arrest and the subsequent help I received stopped all that. It put me back on track, gave me the help I needed, and has led to a complete lifestyle change.

I now only ever use a computer for work and shopping etc and spend more time hiking, carrying out volunteer work for the National Trust and spending quality time with my family and friends.

I know one thing for certain, however hard it is for me now, it is still preferable to how I was before. As such, I am optimistic for the future and for a better, healthier, more productive life.

By Bruce (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

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

Why can’t our past mistakes be left in the past? The ongoing impact of a criminal record

For many people who receive a conviction, the fact that it impacts on so many areas of their life can come as a huge shock. Sammy has faced discrimination from employers and insurers and believes society and government should be doing more to help people move on from their past mistakes.



Last year I received a conviction for ‘making indecent images of children’. Having gone through the process of going to court, I had very little understanding of the resulting impact the conviction would have on my life.

I was dismissed from my job as a company director, neighbours that I’d always thought of as friends ostracised me and, my wife and I separated.

I’ve learnt to deal with the humiliation and embarrassment of having to declare what I’ve done to family and old friends. However, the real difficulty I’ve found is that it’s virtually impossible for me to find work. I’ve never been unemployed but since my conviction I can’t even seem to get myself an interview let alone a job offer.

The majority of employers and agencies ask applicants to disclose any unspent convictions and although I understand that it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to work with children, my conviction is not relevant to the work I once did.

One national recruitment agency told me that they would not accept any job application from me because of the sexual nature of my conviction. Others have said it would be difficult to place me. I suspect that of the agencies I’ve disclosed to, many have taken the decision not to share my CV with their clients.

I’ve also realised how easy it is for companies to carry out internet searches on my name which means they come across all the details of my case. I’ve started to think that these companies will then conveniently bin my application form. The problem is, I can’t ask them if they’re aware of my conviction just in case I draw their attention to it – a vicious circle.

I was recently offered a post in a retirement village run by a charity. I wasn’t asked about my conviction at the interview but once I’d been offered the role I disclosed my conviction on the very first day of work. Sadly, the Chief Executive decided that I was a reputational risk and my contract was terminated.

I’m so disappointed to find that even when my sentence is completed I’ll still face a life-time of punishment by society and I can see very little prospect of obtaining any kind of job in the field that I’ve previously worked in.

For me this means that I can’t contribute to the family finances which have dramatically increased due to the need for me to have alternative accommodation. I can’t pay towards the upkeep of my children and I’ll be unable to help them out when they go to university or want a car or help to buy a house. I’m unable to pay my taxes and once my savings have run out, I will become a burden on society.

In addition to this, I’ve recently had to renew my car insurance but because of my conviction many insurers increased my premium and one insurer refused completely to give me a quote. I can’t make out how my risk as a driver would increase due to a completely unrelated offence.

I don’t diminish in anyway the severity of my offence or other sexual offences but society seems to have gotten itself into a state of righteous indignation about anything sexual. Of course I accept that offenders need to be punished. But there has to be an end date for that punishment. A record may need to be kept forever by the police in case there is any re-offending in the future. But how much of this should be held confidentially and how much should be available for public scrutiny. I might have an opinion on this, but I’m just a lay-man, with a conflict of interest.

I consider myself a normal, law-abiding citizen the same as any other citizen. I got caught up in something I shouldn’t have but it was for a very short period of time. It was out-of-character and I took my own steps to remove myself from that behaviour long before the police knocked on my door.

If there’s any chance of change, then government needs to look into the practices of organisations who impose less advantageous terms on people with a criminal record, even when their offence has nothing to do with the service/product they’re looking for. We’ve paid the price for our mistakes, can’t we now just be left to move on.

By Sammy (name changed to protect identity)


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I am being punished for something I haven’t done – Insurance problems for family members

It was my first time in a court. My husband, Mark was on trial. It was his first offence. He was pleading guilty. We didn’t know how things would go.

We had been told to prepare ourselves for a prison sentence. We were not told how to do that. We had no idea what that would mean in practice. I felt sick to the stomach.

As I sat in the public gallery, I was so stressed that I could see the barristers talking but couldn’t take in what they said. It was as if I was in a different world. Then, it was the judge’s turn to speak. The sentencing statement went on for ages but the only bits that registered with me were the words ‘suspended’ and ‘that will be the end of it’. What aching relief!

Over the first month, a new normal of serving a suspended sentence emerged, including Mark’s weekly visits to the probation officer and getting used to restrictions on travel.

Every day since that day in court, I’d been counting off the weeks, longing for the time my husband’s sentence would be served. I thought that all he had to do was keep his nose clean for a few months longer, which shouldn’t be difficult and the judge’s words would come true – ‘that will be the end of it’. How wrong I was?

I was looking through some papers and noticed our household insurance policy was up for renewal. We’d been with this particular company for three years and had never had to make a claim, so I thought renewing the policy would be a formality.

Then something made me look at the small print. That’s not something I usually do. I noticed something about ‘if your circumstances have changed’. I then saw the bit that said “You must tell us if you or any person usually living with you has any unspent criminal convictions”.

Obviously, we didn’t want any mishaps so Mark rang the insurance company. He told them that he was serving a suspended sentence and told them what it was for. They said they’d get in touch within 72 hours.

Two days later, we received an email from them saying: ‘Your insurance will be cancelled in seven days’. They also said they’d be charging a cancellation fee. The cheek! They didn’t say why the policy was being cancelled, so Mark rang them again. The woman at the end of the phone explained that it was ‘company policy’. Why it was ‘company policy’ she didn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t say. We thought we’d have to pay more in premiums, but we didn’t expect to be refused.

As we’d always had a joint policy, Mark asked if we could insure our house in my name. The insurance company said that it would make no difference. Because of his conviction, they considered Mark an uninsurable risk, and I was guilty by association.

A couple of hours after the phone call, the company emailed us with an online customer satisfaction survey to complete. Totally crass!

The whole thing is so unfair. I have done nothing wrong. I had nothing to do with Mark’s offence, and I am being punished. That is not justice.

We needed to get the house and the contents insured in a hurry, so we immediately started searching on the internet for ‘ex-offenders insurance’. We came across a Guardian article that had a list of companies that are prepared to insure ex-offenders and their families. Mark rang one, told them the details and got the cover we needed. It is more than four times the annual premium we were paying with our previous insurers, but at least we’re covered.

Another problem is that this will go on for years. Although his suspended sentence is counted in months, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act counts Mark as having an ‘unspent’ conviction for ten years. He is obliged to disclose unspent convictions or any insurance will be invalid.

When he raised the issue with his probation officer, they said that he was lucky: most of their clients don’t own property to insure. In a way, maybe we are. We cannot afford not to insure our house. We certainly couldn’t afford to lose everything. We will find the money for the higher premiums. But it does seem that society imposes additional punishment on an offender in the name of rehabilitation.

The worst of it is, nobody knows about it until it is too late. The judge didn’t tell Mark this would happen. His probation officer didn’t tell him this would happen. It’s in none of the literature we got from the court.

If I had just gone ahead and renewed the policy without reading it thoroughly, we’d have carried on blithely thinking that we were covered when, in fact, we weren’t. If the house had then been destroyed by fire, we would have been ruined. We would have been homeless. We’d have lost everything.

People should know that a direct result of getting a criminal record – even a fine for a public order offence at a demo – is that the insurance industry regards them and their innocent family as an insurance risk and that many companies will not insure them.

On the day Mark received his verdict in court, I was so relieved and thankful to hear the judge say ‘suspended’. But they were so wrong when they said that serving the sentence would be the end of the matter. For me, and the many innocent family members like me, it feels like it will never end.

By Jane Roe (name changed to protect identity)

This post originally appeared in the The War Cry magazine (copyright of The Salvation Army) and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

Please note: Jane refers to her husband’s conviction taking 10 years to become ‘spent’. It’s unclear exactly what length of suspended sentence he received, but since the rules changed in 2014, that period should have reduced significantly because of changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on insurance for people with convictions on our Information Hub.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to insurance from people with convictions on our online forum
  • Policy work – Read about the work Unlock is doing on ensuring fair treatment by insurance companies.

The £6k scratch and using Unlock’s list of brokers to get car insurance

car-insuranceI’m 50 years of age and have been driving for almost 30 years. In 2013, I was convicted of drink driving and banned for 14 months. I paid my fine and served my ban.

At the end of the ban I got insurance from GoSkippy for £600 a year. This was far and away the cheapest around and I couldn’t believe my luck. At the time, I was working from home and mentioned this to the guy on the phone. As a result they didn’t insure me to drive to work which was something that I was completely unaware of at the time. Several months later, I got a job which was office based and enjoyed 16 months of hassle free driving, paying my insurance on time every month.

In June, I had an accident on my way to work (my fault) which resulted in a claim being made by the other driver. On receipt of the claim, my insurers contacted me to get my version of events and I told them that it had happened whilst driving to work. Big mistake. Apparently, I wasn’t insured to drive to work! I was guilty of an oversight, an innocent oversight but these sharks, who had happily taken over £1000 from me in the previous 18 months, latched on to that as an excuse not to honour a £200 claim.

Last week they sent me a letter telling me that they were cancelling my insurance. I had 3 days to find a new insurer. I began contacting every ‘convicted driver’ insurance company I could find on google (well the first three pages anyway). After filling in about a dozen quote forms and making about 30 phone calls, I couldn’t find anyone willing to insure me, not a single one. On the second day, I started again and eventually got a quote…£6,000 per year!!

Things were getting serious. I had one day to get insurance or it was goodbye car, job and home, all because of a scratch on a wheel arch.

I don’t know how many times I explained all this to the many insurance companies I called, but it didn’t matter, not interested. At this point, I had a choice to make: give up my car, my job and probably lose my home (I live in a depressed coastal town where jobs are hard to find), or just drive to work without insurance. The system seemed to have turned me into a criminal so hell why not be one?

Anyway it was game over for me, my whole life flashed before my eyes but not like you hear about in crashes or accidents, but rather a slow motion crash, a brick wall heading towards me that would end my life as I knew it in 24 hours. I’ve always worked but now it seemed I would be denied that and so with a heavy heart I was about to turn off the computer and give up, when I received an email from Broker2U, with whom I’d filled in a quote form earlier in the day saying to contact them about insurance. They were one of the brokers on Unlock’s list. I called them instantly and explained the whole situation. They told me they could get me insurance for a lot less than £6,000 but it wouldn’t be that day as it was already 5pm. It was a worrisome night and I was sceptical but I thought they were my last and only hope.

True to their word, they called me the following day at 10am to tell me they had got me insurance for £1700. I couldn’t believe it. Where everybody else I’d spoken to had failed, and many had tried to get underwriters to insure me in the previous 3 days, they had succeeded in a couple of hours. You can probably imagine how relieved I was. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to them. I glad to have found a small caring company that went out of their way to help me.


By Terry (name changed to protect identity)



Useful links 

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Disclosing unspent convictions to existing insurers

On this page:

Aim of this information

This information highlights what you need to consider before disclosing unspent convictions to an existing insurance company.

Why is this important?

The majority of our information on insurance focuses on purchasing new insurance policies and the impact that unspent convictions can have.

However, it’s also important to consider what to do if you have an existing insurance policy and have an unspent conviction. For example, you might just have been convicted, or overlooked the fact that you were asked about unspent convictions when you took out the policy.

If your conviction was unspent when you took out the policy, and you didn’t disclose this when asked, your insurance is potentially invalid.

What you need to consider

Point 1 – Did the insurer ask about your convictions?

Firstly, look at what the insurance company asked you. Take a look at your latest renewal documents. You might have to go back to your original policy documents. You’re trying to work out what you were asked when you last took out a policy with them (this includes your latest renewal).

Remember, you only have to disclose if you’ve been asked.

For example, if you received a theft conviction and were asked by your motor insurer to disclose only motoring convictions, you don’t have to disclose.

If you were asked, you then need to compare when you were convicted with what the insurance company require from you.

Point 2 – When were you convicted?

You then need to consider when you were convicted – was it during your current policy, or before the policy started? This is important, as it will have an impact on what you do next.

Convicted during the policy

If you were convicted during your current policy, you should check your insurers approach to ‘mid-term changes’. Insurers have a duty to inform you within your policy documents of your obligations in terms of disclosing any changes to your circumstances. Unless there is a explicit condition in your policy, you do not have to disclose convictions obtained during a policy, until your next renewal.

Some will ask you to notify them of changes like a conviction, whereas others will say that you need only notify them at renewal. We’ve seen a few that are quite specific about what types of information they need notifying of mid-term, and convictions may be in this list.

If mid-term changes don’t need to be notified, you can continue with your policy until renewal. At renewal, you should find alternative cover (see below).

Convicted before the policy started

If your conviction was unspent when you took out the policy, and you have not disclosed this when asked, your insurance is potentially invalid.

You should decide whether you want to notify your current insurer (and risk your policy being cancelled), or seek alternative insurance before cancelling the policy yourself. Bear in mind that if your policy ends up getting cancelled, this can cause problems in getting further insurance. You may find it useful to call your current insurer anonymously to ascertain what their approach would be to somebody in your situation.

Generally, we would advise that you should look to cancel your insurance and seek insurance elsewhere, as they asked you about unspent convictions and you didn’t disclose (see below).

If your insurance company decides that they want to end your policy, they may give you a period of notice so that you have time to find insurance elsewhere. However, they are not legally obliged to do so where an unspent conviction has not been disclosed.

Why cancel the policy and find alternative cover?

If you didn’t disclose when asked, there is a risk that your existing insurer could cancel your policy due to ‘non-disclosure’.

Instead, we suggest you cancel the policy and find alternative cover. You can do this using the list of insurance brokers that we produce.

Why? Having insurance ‘cancelled’ or refused can create problems further down the road, even once it’s spent. Although once your conviction is spent you do not need to disclose it to insurers, you will normally be asked whether you’ve had insurance cancelled, and the legal position is unclear as to whether the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 covers you in saying “no” to this question if the cancellation relates to a conviction that is now spent.

For more information

  1. Practical self-help information – More information on insurance, including a list of companies that can insure people with unspent convictions, is in the insurance section of this site.
  2. Discuss this issue – Read and share your experiences in the insurance section of our online forum

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information.  You can:-

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum

New Life, New Business – New Problems

Ten years ago I received a conviction for a sexual offence. I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to say that, I am still filled with feelings of disgust and utterly ashamed at what I did. At the time, my life was out of control, don’t get me wrong I’m not making excuses, I shouldn’t have done what I did. I pleaded guilty and I received a custodial sentence.

I’m not one of those people who constantly whinge and feels sorry for myself. I don’t blame ‘the world and his wife’ for what’s happened to me. We all make our own choices and I have to live with mine.

All things considered, I think I’m doing OK. Yes it was hard when I first came out of prison just coming to terms with what I had done and what had happened to me. Prison was certainly never on my list of ‘places to visit before I die’. I did everything that my probation officer asked of me and I am always totally up front and honest with my PPU officer. I don’t consider myself a risk. I’m not going to reoffend and I have nothing to hide. Being a very private person, I initially found questions from the PPU officer quite intrusive but I realised very early on that she was only doing her job. I had allowed myself to be in this position by offending but if I co-operated with her, then hopefully in time, she would be prepared to put more trust in me. That’s exactly what happened. She appreciated my openness and honesty and has always been extremely helpful and supportive.

I met a lovely lady approximately 4 years ago and I disclosed my conviction to her (as I was told to do). I think she was surprised and I am sure there must have been moments when she wondered whether a relationship with me was worth the effort (although she never voiced this to me). We set up home together and made the ultimate commitment – we got a dog.

Like anybody with my sort of conviction getting work has been difficult. Many times my application was never acknowledged even though I knew I had the necessary skills and experience. On other occasions when I disclosed at interview I could see the look of disgust on a manager’s face. I just kept on trying and applied for everything I could and eventually I managed to secure a job. I worked hard, got promoted and then got head-hunted by a competitor.

As my relationship with my partner developed, we made the decision to move house and set up a business together. We wanted to spend more time together and I wanted to move away from the high-pressured, stressful environment that I was working in.

Our new business needed insurance and as I had pretty much put my conviction behind me taking out a commercial insurance policy did not worry me unduly. Oh dear – how wrong I was. Unlike personal insurance, I was duty bound to disclose my conviction as a ‘material fact’. I rang a couple of companies advertising on the internet but didn’t even get the chance to explain the nature of my conviction, the minute I answered yes to the ‘have you got any criminal convictions’ question they told me they could not help. In desperation I turned to the Unlock website – excellent there were brokers who stated that they insured people with my type of conviction. I rang the first one and had to disclose the nature of my offence, when it occurred and the sentence I received. I had achieved so much over the last few years that I had forgotten what it felt like to disclose but that sense of shame and humiliation came flooding back. The broker was great, I guess he’s heard it all before. He said he would ring around and come back to me with the best quote. He did come back to me and told me that although as a broker he had no issue with the nature of my conviction, but due to the fact that I was looking for commercial insurance, he could not find anybody to underwrite the policy.

I rang two more brokers on the Unlock list and got the same answer. They all said that if I had wanted personal insurance they would have no problem sourcing something but commercial insurance was a big ‘no’. For the first time in a very long time, I was reminded of those early days when rejection was a regular occurrence. It was like being on trial all over again. I could see my plans for the new business and future with my wonderful partner just slipping away. Worst of all, it felt like my partner was being punished for my convictions.

Further searches on the internet and many phone calls later and I managed to find somebody willing to insure me. I know that I am paying 3 times more than somebody without a conviction which is not great and an expense that a new business could well do without. However, astonishingly I have only just realised that whatever I have done since leaving prison and whatever I achieve in the future, I am never truly going to be free from my conviction. I have always been able to remain positive, I have never felt sorry for myself and I have never shouted about ‘discrimination’ but I have been really shocked that my conviction should have such a massive impact on purchasing an insurance policy.

I understand why employers need to know about my past, I have accepted that I needed to disclose to my new partner and her family but I fail to see how my conviction has any bearing on a commercial insurance policy.

I am determined not to become bitter about this. If nothing else, it has just given me even more motivation to make a success of my business and provide for my new family.

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