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Forgiving myself was harder than being forgiven by others

Following his conviction for murder, Toby never believed that he deserved to be happy or to move on with his life. Read about his journey to forgiveness.


If you ask the general public what offenders are the most dangerous or what the most heinous offence is most will say ‘murderers’ and ‘murder’. Back in 1999, I became that person.

I’m sure there are a lot of people reading this that would love me to go into great detail about my crime – I’m not going to. It might make my story more interesting to some but it’s not something that I’m proud of and for anybody reading this who may have lost a friend or family member in similar circumstances, I don’t want to sensationalise what I did.

My crime truly was the lowest point of my life and almost as soon as it had happened I knew that I’d never be able to live with myself. As I saw my victims family being interviewed on the television I knew that I had to do the right thing and I handed myself in to the police.

From that day on I found myself on some type of roller-coaster and just went with it – police interview, court, conviction, prison. I can’t really remember the first couple of years in prison, I didn’t speak to anybody unless I really had to (this included my family) and I didn’t engage with any day to day activities in the prison. I was constantly punishing myself, believing that I wasn’t worthy of any type of kindness or compassion.

I’m not entirely sure when the turning point came, probably about the time that my brother visited me to tell me that he and his partner were expecting a baby. He made it clear that he wanted me to be part of my niece or nephews life and harshly told me:

Stop being so b****y selfish. You’re not the only one affected by your actions so grow up, stop feeling sorry for yourself and make the rest of your life matter”

Nobody had spoken to me like that. Everybody pussy-footed around me, trying to make me feel better but he was right. Although I didn’t deserve anything from my life, my family did and so the transformation started.

I embraced life in prison and found that by helping others I started to feel a bit better about myself. I took on peer roles and became a Listener and generally just helped the other lads on the wing with letters, apps etc. My niece Phoebe was born and I relished every letter I received from my brother and his partner telling me what they’d all been up to.

Eventually my release day arrived and my brother Tom was at the prison gates to take me to the approved premises. I wouldn’t have survived these early days without the support of my family and although I was living over an hour’s drive from them they visited me every weekend without fail.

Six months after I’d been released I’d found myself a job in a supermarket and a small flat to rent. However, more excitingly my brother had decided that the time had come to introduce me to my niece for the first time – she was 8 years old.

As happy as this occasion was, it was tinged with a certain amount of sadness. Phoebe knew all about my past and didn’t hold back asking me questions that other’s had avoided asking but I always tried to be as open and honest as I could. From that day on we became firm friends but it made me sad to think that I’d never have a family of my own – let’s face it, it was unlikely that I’d ever find a woman that would want to be with me.

Although I’d got myself a job with a supermarket that was deemed ‘offender friendly’ I was told by the store manager that they’d never employed anybody with an offence as serious as mine. However, he told me that he valued my honesty and openness and supported my application. I was offered a full time job on the night shift; terrible hours but I was grateful for anything. I worked hard and before long I was promoted to a supervisory role followed by the opportunity to apply for a trainee manager’s position.

I loved the job and the people I worked with although I often felt guilty that I hadn’t disclosed my conviction to my colleagues. It was whilst I was attending a health and safety course as part of my manager’s training that I met Dionne. She was also a trainee manager from another store although in my eyes she should have been a model. She wasn’t just beautiful to look at, she had a wonderful personality as well and, at the end of the two day course, I invited her out for a drink.

After we’d been out a couple of times I knew that I had to tell her about my past. I had no doubt that I could trust her not to gossip about me to anybody but I really wasn’t sure how she’d take the news of my conviction. I thought of all the ways I could break it to her – practised in front of the mirror, wrote her a letter etc but in the end I invited her round to my flat and told her over a cup of tea. She didn’t say anything to start with and then told me that she needed time to think through what I’d told her.

“That’s that” I thought. “I’ll never see her again”

The following evening she appeared at my door and told me that she wanted to know everything. As difficult as it was, I knew that I owed her that much and so took myself back to that fateful day. At the end of my story we were both in tears and I knew that whatever the outcome was, I was so glad that I’d had the opportunity to be honest with her.

Meeting that woman turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to me. She didn’t walk away, she told me that she wanted to be with me forever. Since then, life has treated me well – I’m now a department manager but even better, at the age of 46, I became a Dad for the first time.

I can never make up for what I did but I can do all I can to be the very best person I can be.

By Toby  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

Life after receiving a conviction for a sexual offence

We’ve previously published stories which have demonstrated some of the positive ways in which people have moved on after receiving a conviction for a sexual offence, in particular ‘Functioning on a daily basis with a sexual offences order’ and ‘For better or worse – my relationship with a sex offender’. Greg’s story shows a very different experience.


I was convicted of possessing a small number (not that numbers are important) of indecent images of children in 2016, following a search of my flat in 2014. The 22 months in between were indescribable. When my case eventually reached court, I was relieved that I wasn’t given a custodial sentence but my life had pretty much ended anyway. You can’t be accused of such a crime, much less convicted, without it haunting you for the rest of your life.

At a snap I lost my job, my home, the majority of my friends, access to children in my family, any self-respect or self-esteem that I might have had and any respect that anyone had ever had for me.

I had 15 years experience of working with young people in paid and voluntary roles (the pictures relating to my conviction had nothing to do with any young person I worked with) without any allegations or inappropriate behaviour, because no such behaviour took place. I was passionate about working hard and doing the best job I could do.

Obviously that line of work – virtually all I had ever done – is closed to me forever now. I have so little experience in any other work that with the conviction, the lack of recent employment history and severe depression, anxiety and insomnia, I can’t see how I will ever work again.

Because I don’t work I have no permanent home, I stay in spare rooms with relatives. I don’t socialise – well maybe once every six months, but all that happens is that after a few drinks my situation comes up and my friends tell me to get over it and get a job.

I know 100% that I will never get involved in a relationship for the rest of my life because I have no intention of putting anyone through the process of finding out about me and I’m not about to volunteer myself for the subsequent constant rejection.

I had two main ambitions in life, which were to write a novel (or several), and to be more involved in politics, even though I had been active for most of my life in one way or another. Obviously, politics is another closed door for me now and if I wrote a novel and sent it to publishers even on the off-chance they accepted it, they would do background checks and refuse, and if that didn’t happen someone who knew me when all of this began would ring some newspaper or other and it would be hell.

So there is nothing left. I struggle to wake up, I carry out the basic things a human needs to do to exist and I drink and go to bed. This is all apart from the myriad appointments I have with probation, the job centre, mental health services, substance abuse etc.

I know there are positive stories on theRecord about living with a sexual offence and some people cope really well. I just have to say that there is another side to this too and when those pictures were found on my computer, I ceased to exist in almost every way.

The victims are of course the children in any kind of child abuse imagery – it can destroy their lives before they’ve even had a chance to live. So I post not for sympathy – I know none will be forthcoming anyway. I was 34 when all this began and have been passing time waiting to disappear ever since, knowing that I am no longer a part of society and never will be again.

By Greg (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 sexual offences
  • Personal stories – You can read more stories about this, under the tag sexual offences
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to disclosure on our online forum.

Dating someone with a serious criminal record

I met Wes at my gym. We got talking and decided to go for a drink. Both in our 40’s, he wasn’t my usual type but there was something about him. Over the next three weeks we met numerous times. I was beginning to really like this guy.

Then I found out via a mutual friend that he had been in prison! He had only been out 4 months! I was shocked.  Some things he’d said then made sense; He had no passport!  He’d spent time living with his sister! Lack of possessions!

So, I asked him and yes it was true. I was totally gutted, devastated. I have a responsible job in education and 2 teenage children, how could I carry on seeing him now?  Prison, crime and the world he’d moved in were totally foreign to me.

His crime was bad. I Googled him and there he was – a criminal. The local newspaper painted an awful picture but somehow I just couldn’t connect the two men together. I didn’t know this man in the newspaper. I only knew the funny, kind, caring man I’d been dating.

I ended the relationship, but I just felt so sad, it didn’t feel right. He too was disappointed with my decision, but understood.

But I couldn’t sleep for a week, I tossed and turned and felt so unsettled. I confided in a few close friends, most of them warned me to steer clear, told me I’d made the right decision. I did some research, read things online, looked at the Unlock website and forums.  I then spoke to my sister- in-law who’s a probation officer. I was surprised at what she told me; “talk to him, ask him about his life, and find out about his sentence and the terms of his license”. I was surprised by her positivity. She told me many people turn their lives around after release from prison.

So I decided to see him again. I asked him why he hadn’t told me the truth, asked him what his license terms were, where he’d been in prison. He was honest. He apologised and admitted he was struggling to find a way to tell me about his prison sentence. After all how on earth do you tell someone (new and that you’re developing feelings for) that?

Over the past seven months he has met many of my immediate family and some of my friends. Most have accepted him. I have lost a couple friends because of my decision to carry on seeing him. These so called friends have never even spoken to me about Wes and have never even met him. They are fools! Narrow minded, judgemental and hypocritical. I don’t need people like that in my life. They aren’t friends.

Wes wants to move on with his life, he’s served his time and needs a chance to rebuild his future. In the time I’ve known him he has only ever been  hardworking, caring, kind, loving, supportive and generous.  I’ve learnt so much about myself too during all of this, I don’t judge people so quickly anymore, and people need another chance. Life is so short, I think if you mess part of it up, you need the opportunity  to make the remaining bit worthwhile.

On Valentine’s Day Wes sent me a card, inside it simply said ‘Thank you for believing’.  It made me cry.

By Carla (name changed to protect identity)

Curtis and Jodie’s story

Curtis and Jodie

Curtis and Jodie are making living together work for them, but they feel they’re not getting the right support

Jodie: We’ve been together a year and live together at a new place. So far it’s been alright; it gets annoying sometimes when you’re in each other’s hair all the time, but Curtis goes out and goes to college so we have stuff to talk about when he gets home. It’s good to have some space and not see each other all the time. We haven’t argued for about two or three weeks now, so it’s getting better!

Curtis: I’m doing Horticulture, Maths and English exams. I got a Level 2 in English and Level 1 in Maths and I’m really enjoying Horticulture – it makes me feel proud of myself. At home, we both manage the running of the house.

Jodie: Curtis is in charge of it at the moment though, and he always makes sure electric, food and gas have been paid for. He even puts something aside to buy me little gifts – he always puts himself last. My benefits haven’t been sorted since April because I don’t go to my appointments. When I was poorly I just couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed, and I was dizzy and scared to leave the house by myself. Now I know what’s wrong with me I can sort out my jobcentre appointments, but I just struggle keeping them all. I find my probation ones really tough – especially because I have about three appointments a week, and sometimes I turn up at the wrong times and places and get breached. I can feel quite overwhelmed as it feels like there are a lot of responsibilities. It is hard.

Curtis: We’d like to both move out of here and stay in a proper house, and start a family one day. There are lots of issues with this house, but the housing worker isn’t doing anything, even though we said we’d pay to fix some of the problems. We’ve got a broken window, so we get very cold at night time and I’d say we’re quite neglected by our housing worker. The rules for us to move in were that we both got on courses and that the worker would come here twice a week.

Jodie: This was meant to be a month long tester and we’ve now been here four months and haven’t even been told if we’ve passed yet. Twice since living here we’ve run out of electricity the day before his payday, and we’ve asked for a tenner top-up and they’ve told us ‘no’. So I see that as them saying ‘actually go out and get your own money’. There’s a massive lack of support. They told us this would make or break us, and at first it did nearly break us, but we’ve realised we are going to argue at times but we can still get through it.

Curtis: I’d say our lives have definitely improved since we’ve been together. Jodie’s kept me out of lots of trouble – she told me she won’t be there when I get out of prison, so I don’t do anything stupid! She used to be a bit of a bad fighter too, but I don’t let her get into trouble either. We help each other and really mean a lot to each other. We keep each other from committing crime. It’s definitely been a beneficial relationship for us and I think we’ve found a good balance now we’re living together.

Jodie: Social workers say we shouldn’t be living together, because we used to argue a lot, but we’re working at it, and I just don’t think they look at the positives. Yes I may have been breaching but we’re not getting into trouble and committing crime. It does my head in that they don’t see the good in us.

We are thrilled to announce that since this interview, Jodie and Curtis have got engaged. Congratulations from all of us at Unlock and User Voice!

Taken from Issue 19

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