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Tag: Sexual offences -

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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Knowledge and enthusiasm enabled me to appeal my court order

After learning that his indefinite SOPO was extending the time he spent on the Sex Offenders Register and keeping his conviction unspent, Danny knew that the only way to improve his chances of getting back into work was to have it discharged.

Approximately eight years ago I received a six month suspended sentence for a downloading offence and, along with this came an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

There are many reasons why people break the law and it’s only natural therefore that people deal with their convictions in different ways. For me, that meant being really clear about the ongoing impact of my conviction including having a good understanding of when I needed to disclose it, how long I needed to disclose if for and what to disclose.

From this research, I quickly learnt that due to my indefinite SOPO, my conviction would never be spent and my time on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR) would be extended. I also learnt that after 5 years I could apply to have my SOPO discharged without needing the permission of the police.

Seven years on from my conviction and I decided to speak to my PPU (Visor) officer about applying to have my SOPO discharged. Although the SOPO conditions themselves didn’t cause me any problems, the fact that my conviction remained unspent and appeared on my basic DBS certificate made finding a job that much harder.

During this conversation with my PPU officer I was really shocked at how little she knew about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, criminal record checks or SOPO’s. She didn’t seem to realise that basic DBS checks existed and was of the firm belief that a SOPO had to run for a minimum term of 10 years!

Despite pointing out to her that:

  • Without the SOPO my conviction would have been spent in 2016 and wouldn’t appear on a basic DBS; or
  • There was no minimum term for a SOPO.

She told me that I needed to wait a further 3 years before I applied and if I chose to apply before that, she would object.

I’d always adhered to the conditions in my SOPO and had tried to build up a mutually respectful relationship with the police. I’d been quite optimistic therefore of having my SOPO discharged, especially if I had the support of the police. Being told that they would object was a real blow.

I started doing research online and the more I read, I got the distinct impression that SOPO’s should run in line with the duration of the notification requirements. A SOPO shouldn’t be used to extend the time that somebody spent on the SOR.

I knew that I didn’t need to get permission from the police to apply to the court and I took the view that the worst that could happen was my application being refused. If that happened, I’d be in no worse position so I thought it was worth a go.

I put my letter together setting out the reasons why I felt my SOPO should be discharged. I explained how my circumstances had changed since I was first given the SOPO and how I’d had the opportunity to reflect on my previous offending behaviour. I explained that I’d always adhered to the conditions set out in both my SOPO and the SOR. I also quoted a couple of cases from 2011 which I’d come across online which I felt backed up my argument.

My case went to court very quickly and although the thought of attending the hearing was a little daunting, I didn’t have the money to spend on legal representation. Having an awareness of the cases from 2011 certainly gave me the confidence to apply to the court but it wasn’t something I necessarily needed to know. The court were more interested in me and my circumstances which I was well equipped to talk about.

The outcome – SOPO discharged with immediate effect.

Of course, I’m absolutely delighted with this result and so glad that I went through the process. I’d say to anybody that if you find yourself in a similar situation to this, don’t be afraid to go back to court. Having the support of the police will always be favourable but remember, you can apply to have a SOPO varied or discharged without it after 5 years. The advantages for me have been massive and all it cost me was my time and a stamp.

By Danny (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 applying to a court to end a court order.
  • Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum.

Being brave isn’t easy but it’s key to moving forward – Standing by my husband following his conviction

Standing by a partner convicted of a sexual offence is never an easy decision to make and as Julia’s story shows, can impact on many areas of your life.


My husband Gary and I had been married for 12 years when he was convicted of a sexual offence. I had no idea that he’d been downloading and viewing indecent images of children and from the moment I found out, I went through a whole spectrum of emotions.

I had moments of intense anger towards him but I blamed myself too – why didn’t I see what was happening? Why was I so stupid? The truth is, I thought we had the perfect life; a beautiful home, wonderful holidays and fulfilling jobs.

My initial instinct was to leave him and for a while I did, staying with my mum and dad. My husband and I were both teachers, working at the same school and for a while I tried to continue as normal. However, following the police investigation most of my colleagues and many of the parents became aware of what Gary had done and although my colleagues were supportive, the parents were much less so. Going to work became unbearable and so I handed in my notice.

Although I felt let down and deceived by Gary I still loved him. I couldn’t condone what he’d done but his conviction enabled him to confront some underlying issues that he’d never spoken about. So I decided to stick with him and give our marriage another go. Little did I know that this decision was the easy part.

There’d been a lot of publicity about Gary’s conviction, not least because he was a teacher. Whilst friends, family and neighbours were happy to help me when they thought I’d left him, once they knew that I was going to stand by Gary I was treated like a leper.

We felt that the only option we had was to move away. It actually wasn’t that difficult a decision to make, neither Gary nor I had a job and my beautiful home felt tarnished because it was where Gary’s offending had taken place.

Once settled in a new area we started applying for work. Gary was barred from working with children but very quickly found a job in a warehouse. The basic salary wasn’t that great but there was plenty of opportunity to do overtime which bumped up his salary. That June I was offered a teaching job with a planned start date of September. It was great news and I began to think that we could start to move on. That was until I received my DBS certificate because right under the ‘additional information’ section the police had chosen to disclose the details of Gary’s conviction.

In the past I’d never been concerned about my DBS certificate and perhaps niavely I’d not considered that my certificate would be affected by Gary’s conviction. My first instinct was to ring the school and tell them that I wouldn’t be taking up the job offer. If I wanted to avoid having to explain Gary’s conviction that seemed the only thing to do. I picked up the phone to make the call several times but just couldn’t do it. I knew that once I’d rung, there’d be no going back and I would have accepted an end to my teaching career.

If anything, the experiences I’ve had over the last few years have made me a much stronger person. I’d done nothing wrong, it was Gary’s conviction, not mine – I needed to confront it head on and then deal with the consequences whatever they were.

And so, I made an appointment to meet with the headmistress, telling her I’d received my DBS certificate and wanted to have a chat with her.

It was an odd situation to be in. Essentially the headmistress wasn’t looking at my DBS certificate to consider my abilities as a teacher, she wasn’t even assessing the risk I posed to the children. She was judging my character and questioning why a woman who’d spent years educating and protecting children would choose to be married to a convicted sex offender. The difficulty is of course that I made the decision to stay with Gary using my heart and that’s hard to rationalise in a professional employment setting – goodness knows it was hard enough explaining to my mum and dad.

My disclosure didn’t go quite as planned and at one stage I got quite upset. Throughout my declaration the headmistress said nothing, the expression on her face remained the same (even when I was crying) but when I’d finished she said:

That was a really brave thing you’ve done.

At the time I assumed she meant my disclosure but I know now that she was also referring to my decision to stay with Gary.

As I’ve just intimated, I did get the job. I was fortunate to meet a headmistress who was experienced and sensible. She knew there was nothing that legally stopped me from teaching and that Gary posed no risk to the kids at the school. I know the decision to appoint me wasn’t just hers and that she had to fight for me – I can’t thank her enough.

I’m not looking to leave my job anytime soon but I’ve heard recently that if I ever needed to apply for an enhanced DBS check in the future I could consider contacting the relevant police force and making a request that they don’t disclose the details of Gary’s conviction. It’s good to know that this process exists and it may be something for the future.

By Julia  (name changed to protect identity)

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My life has been enriched since challenging my SOPO

Source: Adobe Stock

A series of terrible incidents relating to his criminal record led Gerry to apply to have his SOPO revoked with a very positive outcome.

Back in 2009 I was convicted of a downloading offence which resulted in a community sentence and an indefinite SOPO.

In the years following my conviction I started to rebuild my life and was doing very well working in finance as well as doing some freelance writing on the side until one of my colleagues found out about my conviction. For some reason, she’d decided to google me and saw the details of my offence in the local paper. She told me that if I didn’t quit my job, she would tell everybody about my conviction and, fearing the reaction from other work mates, I came clean to my boss. Although he was shocked, he was very fair and I could have possibly kept my job but I felt I had no option but to leave.

Without a main income I started to rely on my freelance work but the work wasn’t always regular and building up my business was slow going. I couldn’t keep up with my rent and was eventually evicted by my landlord but I was lucky to be able to move in with my family.

My copy-writing business was starting to take off when the Twitter stalking began. Over the course of a couple of months various new, and immediately suspended Twitter accounts sent me links to the local newspaper story about my conviction and one included the cheery message:

Always watching, always in pain”

This individual also worked out where I was working and bombarded the contact form on the website with messages including the newspaper link in an attempt to get the boss of the company (who just happened to be me!!) to fire the person named in the story (also me). Sadly the anoymous accounts also tagged a couple of clients who I haven’t heard from since.

It was at this point that I started to search the internet looking for advice and came across Unlock. I was pleased to see that there was some light at the end of the tunnel but it would involve things like changing my name and the name of my business and I also found out that I probably shouldn’t have been given an indefinite SOPO.

I was blessed with a PPU officer who was happy to support my application to have my SOPO scrapped or, failing that, to have some sections of it removed in line with more recent Court of Appeal rulings. Not only that, but unlike other PPU officers I’d had before, she told me that I didn’t need a solicitor to represent me, that she’d known many people who’d done their own applications and that she thought I was more than capable of doing this myself.

I was expecting to have to wait a while for a court date but I actually got a hearing very quickly. The judge said he was minded to grant my application but had received no response from the police so wanted to wait for that before granting it.

Months went by.

Towards the end of last year, I had a visit from my PPU officer who apparently knew nothing about my court hearing or the fact that the police had failed to show up. She promised to chase it up and to her credit came back to me the same day to say that the force’s legal services team had not received any notification of the case. I contacted the court who agreed to send all the relevant paperwork again.

A further month went by and, having heard nothing, I made a further application to the court. I pointed out that if the situation were reversed and the police were seeking an order, the judge would have made a decision in my absence and I suggested that the same principle should apply.

Not long after I received a copy of the police reply to the court which stated that although they never supported applications to discharge SOPO’s, they had no objection to my application. They asked to be excused from further hearings but listed dates that my PPU officer would be available if the judge insisted on them being present.

I’m delighted to say that my SOPO was revoked which meant that my conviction was also spent and I came off the register.

SOPO’s can be over-reacting and over-long but as my experience shows they can be challenged without the need of expensive solicitors. The police may delay things but stick with it, talk to the court and hopefully you’ll have the same result as I did.

By Gerry  (name changed to protect identity)

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Do the police believe in rehabilitation?

Image source: Adobe Stock

After a visit from the police, Russell felt like the police didn’t believe in rehabilitation, as they took no account of how he’d moved forwards with his life over the 8 years since his last offence.

I have been on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR) for five years during which time I have complied with everything and have never caused my police officer any concerns regarding my behaviour. I hoped that I had shown how I had moved on with my life and rehabilitated.

Now this is not a “oh woe is me” story, as I was guilty of my offences. I fully admitted what I’d done in court and I will live with the regret of what I did for the rest of my life; in particular with regards to failing my daughter as a father. I’m lucky that I still have a relationship with her as I appreciate there are lots of people with sexual offences whose families will have nothing to do with them,

Following a recent visit from the police I had to tell them that my daughter had given birth to my second grandchild (they were already aware of the first one). After sharing this with them, the police officer calmly told me:

We’ll have to notify social service who will be in contact with your daughter.”

My initial feelings were shock, followed by anger. “Why?” I asked. “It’s procedure” came the reply.

During the rest of the visit I went through a whole range of emotions anger, sadness, confusion. Many questions crossed my mind. Why does my daughter have to be contacted? What concerns do the police have? Don’t they take into account that it’s been eight years since my conviction and I have moved on, I’m rehabilitated. Do the police even believe in rehabilitation?

A couple of days later I made the phone call to my daughter that I’d been dreading, letting her know that social services would be contacting her. My daughter told me that social services had already contacted her. I apologised profusely for putting her through this and for not warning her prior to their call. She told me that the questions they’d asked her had been around the contact that I had with my grandchildren – was it supervised, was I left on my own with them. My heart sank, they obviously think I am a deviant paedophilic monster who would physically abuse my grandchildren. Surely that can be the only reason they’re asking.

I know what I did was wrong, I can never change that, no matter how much I wish I could. I was a weak, disgusting man when I was offending and I wish there was a time machine and I could go back to the moment before I first offended and start hitting myself around the head to stop myself but I can’t. All I can do is move forwards with my new life.

I am a stronger man now and will never offend again. As a person in a recent article on theRecord said:

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.”

This describes perfectly me today, but no matter how hard I try, it appears the police will see me as I was 8 years ago, a sex offender and a risk to everyone. The police may know of me, but they don’t know me. Because if they did they would find that I’m a nice guy. Perhaps, the police don’t want to know that some people with sexual convictions are nice people who have made mistakes and move on.

So my answer to the question is ‘no’. I don’t think the police believe in rehabilitation. But why, if part of the Criminal Justice System is supposed to work towards rehabilitating people who have committed offences. Is it because the police represent the society they serve, and society doesn’t believe in rehabilitation. Maybe an honest conversation needs to be had around rehabilitation, even though the answer maybe one I won’t like, that society doesn’t believe in rehabilitation. But at least I would know the truth.

By Russell  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • For practical information – More information can be found on our information hub site on sexual offences
  • To discuss this with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

A cautionary tale if you’re looking to start a relationship with somebody who has been convicted of a sexual offence

Source: Adobe Stock

Having started a new relationship with a man who’d been convicted of a sexual offence, Yvonne was surprised to find that the police, probation and social services all had such a judgemental attitude towards both her and her partner.

My partner Stephen is a convicted sex offender. I’m divorced and until I met him, neither I, nor anyone close to me, had ever met a person with a criminal record. This is our story.

Stephen and I met through an online dating agency. He was out of prison and on licence. Both his police protection officer and probation officer knew about, and encouraged his use of the sites although in hindsight, it should have been obvious that Stephen was unknowingly violating the sites Terms and Conditions. (Some agencies ban people with certain offences from signing up).

Little did I know that the consequences of getting involved with a sex offender are huge. The deceit you are forced into daily with everyone you meet, the decisions about who to tell and who not to tell, the horror of what those who you do tell subsequently discover on the internet, the change in your relationships with them, the difficult place you put them in when they, in turn, are forced to keep the secret, the ongoing terror of the truth eventually coming out …..

I have two children, a son and a daughter and Stephen’s probation officer advised him that there was no problem in him pursuing a relationship with the mother of a 16 year old girl. She and the police protection officer both approved and registered my home as Stephen’s second address without speaking to me, let alone meeting me or my daughter or visiting our home. Should this have been allowed? Probably not.

As my daughter was at boarding school she only came home during the holidays and every now and again at weekends. I’d mentioned to my daughter that I’d started seeing somebody but Stephen and I decided not to tell her that he was regularly staying over at my house until I’d spoken to her father.

A few weeks after we’d started dating, Stephen’s probation officer told him that she needed to inform the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) about our relationship – apparently this was ‘just a formality’. It took two months for the relevant paperwork to be processed and, when I was contacted by a woman from Social Services, it was whilst I was attending a lunch party with friends. She insisted that I repeat to her there and then on the phone the precise details of what Stephen had told me about his offence. Repeating the details aloud was a horrible experience not least because it came out of the blue.

Two days later after this telephone call I was contacted by Social Services again and told that they wanted to come along with a police officer to meet me – they gave me three hours notice!!!

During this meeting Stephen was made to wait in the garden and the police officer who’d never met either of us before spent 4 hours carrying out a character assassination. Her opinion of Stephen appeared to be based only on what she’d read and in my view demonstrated a stereotypical judgement of all sex offenders. It included straight untruths, exaggeration and general inaccuracies.

At the end of the meeting, the police officer insisted on driving directly to my daughter’s school to inform her of Stephen’s convictions. I was refused any contact with her or her father and so couldn’t be with her when she was spoken to. When the uniformed police officer and social worker arrived at the school they disclosed details of Stephens conviction in the presence of her housemistress and four other members of school staff. As my daughter had become aware of Stephen’s background I thought it was only right that I should tell my son and the children’s father.

At this point, my daughter told the police officer that she didn’t want Stephen to stay in our house any more and this was added to one of Stephen’s licence conditions. My son refused ever to meet him and the fragile relationship I’d built up over a decade with the children’s father was destroyed. The trust and respect my two children had for me was devastated and their faith in my judgement trashed resulting in a total loss of all sense of security and stability.

I made a complaint to the police which took them four months to respond to. My complaint was not upheld and I was advised that the police officer had ‘acted in good faith’.

Three months later and having got over the shock of the disclosure, my daughter told me that she had no problem with Stephen visiting our home when she wasn’t there. My ex-husband and the children drew up a statement confirming this. However the police and probation still continued to prevent him from visiting me and Social Services told me they could do nothing all the time the police and probation were denying him access.

This situation went on for 9 months and it was only when I began to threaten to expose the catalogue of mistakes made by all three agencies that they finally started to listen to me. A meeting with arranged with myself, Stephen, police, probation and social services where it was acknowledged that mistakes had been made. We received an apology from social services and Stephen’s licence conditions were immediately relaxed.

Discovering that that the police and probation were so judgemental, negatively stereotyping their clients rather than treating them as unique individuals came as a real shock to me. If this is the attitude of professionals is it any wonder that employers and members of the public find it so difficult to give those with a sexual offence a chance.

By Yvonne  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • For practical information – More information can be found on our information hub site on sexual offences
  • To discuss this with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

The inconsistencies of travelling when you have a sexual offence

Individuals convicted of sexual offences often have to deal with other people’s discriminatory and judgemental behaviour and it’s easy to believe that this is how they will be treated by everyone. Bruno’s story demonstrates the very different attitudes of staff working for the immigration authorities.


I was convicted of a sexual offence and currently have to sign the Sex Offenders Register. I believe my conviction was harsh, but I’ve accepted it and understand that every year I’ll have to sign the register and when I want to go abroad, I’ll have to inform the police.

Recently, my wife and I decided to go to France for a few days so, well in advance, as per registration rules, I informed my local police station. We travelled out via the Euro-tunnel, a journey which proved to be extremely stressful. We got through the British border with no problem at all but, when it came to the French border things were quite different.

Initially, we were told to pull over and wait. After about 40 minutes, two British police officers arrived – a male and a female. They asked to see my passport and started to question me about where we were going before walking away taking my documents with them. Another 10 minutes passed before the female officer came over to me and asked me whether I had a phone. When I said ‘Yes’ she asked to see it. She then asked me whether it had internet access and again, I said ‘Yes’. Looking at me in disgust, she called over her colleague before telling me that she’d have to take my phone away as I wasn’t allowed to have internet access.

I politely advised her that I thought she was wrong and went on to explain the full terms of my SOPO – basically that I was allowed internet enabled devices as long as I made them available to the police whenever they asked to see them. I could tell she wasn’t happy that I was disagreeing with her and she told me to wait while she went away to check. Her colleague stayed with me and was quite chatty and personable. He said that he thought there’d been a mistake, that I shouldn’t be denied internet access and not to worry.

Eventually the female officer came back and rather than apologise she said:

You’re right. Let me have your IMEI number and then you can go”.

This really wasn’t a great start to our trip and it really infuriated my wife. She wasn’t angry with me, but at the attitude of the female police officer and the delay that it had caused us.

As you can imagine, we were both dreading the trip home but it couldn’t have been more different. The border officer pulled us over and then asked me to get out of the car and open the boot. He didn’t look in the boot at all but did ask me some basic questions “Where have you been?” “Who are you travelling with?” He went on to say that he had to ask these questions but didn’t want to draw attention to me and thought it would be better to make it look like a random check. He wished me a safe journey and sent me on my way – a refreshing attitude!

Travelling whilst you’re on the register can be daunting and your experience will be made worse if you come across an official who shows you very little respect or is unclear about the responsibilities of their job. However, I’ve seen that there are some good guys who’ll be professional and treat you well. After our initial blip my wife and I had a great trip and we’d have no hesitation in travelling to France again.

Due to the nature of my offence, I’ve been left to deal with all sorts of problems and it’s taken me a little while to accept that I can’t change what happened in the past. For the sake of my family and friends, I try not to dwell on it and accept that in terms of other people’s attitudes, you just have to take the rough with the smooth – I feel a lot better for that.

By Bruno (name changed to protect identity)


Comment from Unlock

The Schengen Information System (SISII) is a European database that passes real time information from one participating country to another in the form of alerts relating to people or property. SISII alerts hold no prohibitions or punishments and the presence of an alert like this doesn’t require the Schengen country to refuse entry – this is a decision for the individual country to make as part of their own immigration policy.

Bruno was quite right to question why the police officer wanted to ‘confiscate’ his telephone. He was able to have in his possession internet enabled devices but even if he wasn’t allowed them, there would have been nothing on the SISII alert which detailed this prohibition.

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Why won’t the media let us move on from our offending behaviour – especially those with sexual offences

News is a money making industry and it’s fair to say that the media don’t always report facts accurately. Many individuals now believe their neighbourhoods are unsafe and overestimate their odds of becoming the victim of a crime. Ethan considers how the role of the media impacts on an individuals ability to be considered rehabilitated.


People change!

No, it’s not a question, it’s a fact!

Alcoholics become sober, drug users become clean, car thieves stop stealing cars, murderers stop killing and many turn their lives around and become excellent role models. However, commit a sexual offence and suddenly you aren’t capable, and the scared, irrational and paranoid will bring out an impressive line-up of this or that expert to attest to the fact.

For me its rubbish, they don’t know what’s in your head, some probably don’t even care. If so many can change (and there’s proof they can), then why is it that we stick to this way of thinking for sexual offences?

Almost 20 years ago I was convicted of three sexual offences, one of which I was guilty and the others of which I wasn’t. The details are irrelevant apart from saying that because I chose to maintain my innocence on those two, yet did every course asked of me, I was denied my early release because I refused to capitulate to what the system wanted.

Upon release I knew I had changed; I knew I wasn’t going to commit any more offences. Why? Because I had made the conscious decision not to make the same mistake again. I was going to be on the register for life, but at the time it meant one visit a year and notifying the police of my living arrangements; I had no issues with that. Let me say that since the outset, every officer whose job it was to monitor me has been courteous, understanding and supportive (at least to my face which is the main thing).

As the years passed and the paranoia of the public and politicians grew, the details of registration changed time and time again. They became more and more intrusive, credit card details were required, where you were going on holiday, details of your sex life and partners, the list goes on and on. My visits grew to twice a year and sometimes lasted more than an hour as they grilled me on every aspect of my life since the last visit.

The police rely on the fact that sex offenders will comply without complaint because they won’t want to put their head above the parapet and challenge the system for fear of their name ending up in the press and their lives being ruined for a second time. That’s certainly how I felt every time I was informed of even more significant restrictions on my life.

Just for the record that doesn’t help with your choice to change your life. Far from it; it gets in the way. People will tell you that it’s just about monitoring you to make sure you don’t re-offend. What people don’t seem to understand is that isolation, alienation and feeling like you are always being watched to such a degree that you question every choice you make, it does nothing to lower the risk. In fact, I would argue that it increases the chance of re-offending for those who become depressed, because lets face it, if your life isn’t worth that much some will think they are better off in prison.

Now, before you start screaming “that’s where you belong”, I don’t diminish in any way the severity of my offence or other sexual offences but society does seem to have got itself into a state of righteous indignation about anything sexual. In fact, since the Jimmy Saville scandal, the country has gone mad with something akin to the Salem Witch Hunts.

What has gone wrong with our criminal justice system? It was meant to be innocent until proven guilty, but not so much now, especially if it’s a sexual offence. We used to believe in rehabilitation as opposed to permanent incarceration, but not so much now.

Our system doesn’t work. We have one of the highest re-offending rates in the modern world with ever increasing prison populations. Other countries are doing far better than us, look at the Scandinavian countries; the only thing they do differently is believe in rehabilitation and take it seriously.

I don’t blame society, rather the media for sensationalising and politicians who won’t change anything for fear of losing their job or money.

It may sound as though I’m angry and to be fair to a degree I am because deep down in my heart I know I have changed but I’ll never be allowed to put it behind me and build a new life.

By Ethan (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

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  • Information – We have some practical information on sexual offences
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to this issue on our online forum.

Success in getting my Sexual Offences Prevention Order discharged

Graham’s SOPO was due to end at the end of this year but, he decided that he’d enquire as to whether he could get it discharged earlier. He was told that he could apply and thought that it would be useful to share his experience.


I was convicted of a sexual offence in 2008 and given a 10 year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

Earlier this year, I made enquiries at the Crown Court as to how I would go about discharging my SOPO. The Court provided me with quite a vague response and I was told that my enquiry would be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Within a matter of weeks, I received a letter from the Court notifying me that I was due to appear there in one week’s time for my appeal hearing. I found this very odd as I’d not actually asked for my SOPO to be discharged; I’d only made an initial enquiry. It would appear that the CPS had no objection to my application and neither did the police, and it was therefore the police who made the application not me.

The advice I’d received from a couple of organisations stated was that if there were no objections raised, then the discharge would be a paper exercise and I wouldn’t have to attend the court in person. I fully expected to receive a letter from the Clerk saying that I wasn’t required to attend but I was wrong and had to go along.

Given that I had just one week’s notice, I was concerned about the process in court and whether I’d need a solicitor to represent me. In the end, I felt I’d be able to represent myself and, with both the CPS and the police raising no objection to the discharge, I really felt I would be pushing at an open door. However, I did take the precaution of writing a letter of submission to the judge in which I expressed remorse for my original crime, set out details of the courses I’d attended, pointed out my crime-free years since my conviction, how I’d worked in the community, and the fact that I was in a loving and stable relationship. This was posted to the Clerk of the Court for the judge’s attention.

My appearance in court was possibly one of the shortest on record, fifteen seconds maximum. I was asked to identify myself, which I did and then the judge simply said that he agreed with the CPS and the police and the order was “hereby” discharged.

However, he did add that as the order had been made in a Crown Court it must also be discharged there with me in attendance. This may be a new requirement but it certainly flies in the face of the advice given from several quarters that it would merely be a paper exercise.

So, for anybody thinking about applying to have a SOPO discharged, I’d give the following advice:

  1. If you’ve adhered to all your SOPO conditions then it might be worth asking your Public Protection Officer (PPO) about a discharge. I was a low-risk offender so this may have helped. Just remember that the police have to agree to an appeal if it’s within five years of the order being made; after that they don’t.
  2. You may be asked to attend court. I would have been happy to answer any questions put to me by the judge but, as the CPS and the police had no objections, I wasn’t asked any. If you’re not going to use a solicitor then it might be useful if you write a letter in advance to the judge – as I did – outlining why you’re requesting your SOPO be revoked. I cannot say whether this had any impact on the judge’s decision, but it won’t have had any adverse effect.
  3. The decision to terminate my SOPO five months early may indicate the pressure that the police are under and the tacit understanding that low-risk offenders are taking up too much police time. If this is true, then an appeal to discharge a SOPO may not be as fraught as you might think.

I hope this helps and gives more people the confidence to apply to the court.

By Graham (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock

This story will hopefully encourage others with SOPO’s to seek the permission of their Public Protection Officer to have their SOPO’s discharged.

Whilst you may have to attend court, it appears that the hearing could be quite short and cause you less stress than continuing with a SOPO which can impact on when your conviction becomes spent.

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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.

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