Having overcome the impact of his criminal record from 25 years ago, Nick was devastated to find that links to his name (and his conviction) had been made available on an internet archive site. Read about his efforts to get the links to his name removed.

 

 

25 years ago I received a conviction which resulted in a 3 line article in a local newspaper. 

The conviction resulted in a community order which I completed as soon as I could and since then, I’ve worked hard and done well career wise. As it was so long ago, very few people other than my immediate family know about it and I’m sure that many who know me now would be shocked to learn that I have a criminal record.  

I was therefore horrified to discover last year that these 3 lines of print had suddenly reappeared online on an internet archive site.  

Like a lot of people with a criminal record, the experiences you’ve had never quite leave you and I became totally stressed out about the consequences of this becoming known to family, friends and colleagues. I have a very unique surname and I knew that if anybody googled me, then this article would come up straightaway.  

I didn’t believe that my conviction was ‘still of public interest’ and I started to hope that it might fall under the category of “right to be forgotten”. I did a lot of research and eventually discovered that I could apply to Google to have the links to my name removed which I did.  

Google came back to me very quickly, to tell me that in their opinion, my story was still in the public interest. I was distraught, not least because the article relating to me was now even nearer the top of page 1 in the google search.  

I was sure that if my employers found the article (or somebody told them about it) then they’d dismiss me immediately, just on the grounds of reputational harm. As much as I told myself this wouldn’t happen, the effect it was having on my mental health was frightening. I couldn’t believe that a private company like Google could take it upon themselves to be the ‘judge and jury’ of what constitutes public interest.  

I started to investigate the cost of involving a solicitor but found that they often couldn’t give me any idea of my chances of success but wanted to charge me an exhorbitant amount of money. One really helpful company that I spoke to suggested that I could try making a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) which is what I did next.  

As I waited for a response from the ICO, I started to think back to when I’d originally applied for my job. I couldn’t remember whether I’d been asked about my conviction but if I had, I knew that I hadn’t disclosed it. I was worried that it might have been unspent at that time and that I should have told my boss. Further anxiety followed until I found out for sure that my conviction had been spent when I’d applied for my job and so I’d done nothing wrong in not disclosing. 

It took the ICO quite a while to get back to me – they seem very busy dealing with similar cases to my own. However, I eventually got the news I wanted, the ICO had found in my favour and asked Google to de-list the search results. The following day I received an email from Google telling me that they’d  

Reviewed my case and would de-list the search results in the UK and EU”

I’m delighted with the result but can’t believe that 25 years on I’ve had to deal with this all over again. I worry that individuals being convicted now are so exposed to the internet and social media and that companies carry out google searches as a way of informally checking someone’s record.  

At the time that I was seeking help, I was worried that I was going to loose my job so I was careful about every pound I spent. Some of the solicitors I spoke to were giving me quotes of £5,000 to deal with my case with very little certainty that they’d get any kind of result; this just wasn’t financially viable for me.  However, as my story demonstrates, you don’t need a solicitor to help you, with a bit of time and patience you can do it yourself. My advice to anybody affected like this is to apply to Google and if that doesn’t get a positive result take it to the ICO.   

By Nick (name changed to protect identity)

 

Comment from Unlock

In April 2018 the High Court ruled on two cases involving individuals with spent convictions that brought claims against Google for refusing to de-list search engine results.

If an application you’ve made to Google has been refused then there are possible legal remedies – further information can be found here.

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