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)
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