As a victim of domestic abuse, Stephanie assumed that when she rang for help, the police would rescue her from her perpetrator. Instead, she ended up with a conviction which will stay on her enhanced DBS certificate for 11 years.
Back in 2015, I attended a colleagues surprise 40th birthday party. I didn’t go out that often without my boyfriend and was excited to spend time with good friends and to celebrate with them. There was good wine and lots of interesting dance moves and myself and my good friend continued the night out in town after the party finished. We headed home around 12 and I fell straight to sleep as soon as I got in.
At around 5am I woke to a huge bang on the front door. I went downstairs confused and half asleep. When I opened the door, I was hit with a barrage of aggressive name calling and accusations. It was my boyfriend. I tried to diffuse the situation but was assaulted in an unprovoked attack by someone I trusted, loved and had spent 2 years with. He repeatedly hit me around the head and when I tried to escape, he pulled me back through the door and threw me to the ground. He continued to berate me and smashed my phone. At that point, I knew I had to get out of the house and get as far away as I could. I’d managed to call 999 from my landline and left the line open in the hope that the police were able to hear the shouting and send help.
What was only a few minutes felt like forever; I was so frightened. I didn’t know what he would do next. He went into the kitchen and I took my chance to grab my keys and run. I got into my car and drove. As I turned out of my road, the police drove past me and I manically waved at them trying to let them know it was me who needed help. I was so panicked and confused I continued to drive. Less than a mile from my house I saw blue lights behind me and pulled over. I was shaking and crying, wearing my pyjamas and no shoes.
I can’t begin to explain how surprised I was when instead of asking me about the assault, the police chose to breathalyse me, even though I’d already told them that I would probably be over the limit. I was arrested, taken to the police station and held in a cell for around 6 hours. After having my photograph and fingerprints taken and being interviewed by the police, I no longer felt like a victim of domestic violence but a criminal. The policeman interviewing me told me:
You’ll lose your licence for sure
He gave me very little support in regard to the assault that I’d just gone through. The emphasis was much more about my drink driving. The policeman made me feel as though everything was my fault and I didn’t feel able to press charges against my boyfriend.
Fortunately, I had a good friend who advised me to get a solicitor. This allowed me to get a second hearing for my court case where I was able to argue that there were extenuating circumstances for driving my car whilst still over the limit. I’d never been in trouble with the police before and my driving licence was clean. I was given an absolute discharge as the court agreed that had it not been for my boyfriend assaulting me that day, I would never have driven my car.
My happiness was short lived however when I was made aware that my absolute discharge would still appear on my enhanced DBS certificate.
Nearly four years on, I’ve already had to disclose my criminal record a number of times. Initially to my employer to let them know that my DBS certificate had changed; twice to future employers and soon I’ll be disclosing it again for a volunteering position I want to do. As I work with children and vulnerable young people, I always have an enhanced check so always have to disclose. Every time I feel shame, guilt and anxiety about re-telling the event that led to my criminal record. The thought of having to wait another 7 years until my conviction is filtered makes me feel sad and angry at the system.
By Stephanie (name changed to protect identity)
A comment from Unlock
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act doesn’t class an absolute discharge as a conviction and it becomes spent immediately. However, for filtering purposes it is dealt with as a conviction and will therefore appear on standard and enhanced DBS checks. If Stephanie had been charged with more than one offence and her absolute discharge included two counts, then it would never be eligible for filtering. It’s clear to see from this example why the current filtering system isn’t working and needs changing.