As one of the biggest employers in the UK, it’s always disappointing when we hear how risk averse the NHS can be. Teresa’s experience has been far more positive and the introduction of the NHS Liaison and Diversion department will hopefully mean that in terms of being an employer, they will gain a better understanding of some of the reasons why people receive cautions and convictions. 

 

I can’t help feeling that I’m a victim of ‘the system’. In 2008, after enduring more than a year of emotional abuse from my partner, the police came knocking at my door. I’d never had any dealings with the police before and had no idea why they were there. They informed me that my partner had contacted them accusing me of assault. I had no recollection of this; however I did remember pushing him out of the bedroom door the night before.

The police asked me whether I was suffering from any mental health issues and I admitted that I’d recently had a number of suicide attempts that required hospitalisation. I don’t remember much after that apart from tears and complete detachment, but ultimately I was cautioned for ABH.

Skip forward 8 years and, having completed my degree in psychology, I applied for my first job. I had a great interview and couldn’t believe my luck when I was offered the job. As I needed to have a DBS check and knew that my caution wouldn’t be eligible for filtering, I arranged a meeting with the HR manager to discuss my criminal record. I hadn’t thought about what had happened for many years, I’d moved on. I’d completed my therapy and done well. But as I started to explain the situation, it all came flooding back. I spent the next week in a state of anxiety, having flashbacks and regrets, reliving memories, it was totally overwhelming. Then at the end of the week I got a call from the employer, informing me that they’d decided to revoke the job offer, as they felt that they:

“Couldn’t trust me to be alone with vulnerable clients.”

I battled on and was offered another job, this time working for the NHS. I was certain that I’d disclosed my caution to them but it turned out that by mistake I’d ticked the wrong box on the application form and had answered ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ to a question asking whether I had any cautions/convictions which were not eligible for filtering. As soon as the NHS received my DBS certificate, they contacted me to ask why I hadn’t disclosed the caution. I’m pretty sure they thought that I’d deliberately withheld the details. I explained that I’d made a genuine mistake and then set out the circumstances that led to my caution and how I’d turned my life around since then. I must have done something right because I’ve now been working for the NHS for 9 months.

I recently applied to the police to have my caution deleted from the PNC as I don’t feel that the ongoing implication of accepting it was properly explained to me at the time. I was a victim of abuse and struggling with a mental health condition. Sadly the police have refused to delete it.

I’m no longer a victim and I no longer struggle with a mental health condition. But this caution will follow me for life. I might be very capable and good at my job but I’ll have to revisit this every time I have a DBS check. When does the past become the past?

Recently I’ve become aware of an NHS department referred to as Liaison and Diversion (L & D). The service identifies people who have mental health, learning disabilities, substance misuse issues etc when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system and where appropriate refers them to other health or social care settings which can often mean that they get diverted away from the courts.

If this service had been available to me at the time of my arrest, I may not have ended up with a caution for ABH following me around.

By Teresa (name changed to protect identity)

 

Comment from Unlock

We know of many people like Teresa who have accepted cautions without fully appreciating the ongoing impact it will have on them. This is especially so for those who are looking to work in roles which require DBS checks and who have been given cautions for offences which are not eligible for filtering (ABH is on the DBS list of offences that are not eligible for filtering). It’s for this reason that Unlock is challenging the current DBS filtering process which we feel is blunt, restrictive and disproportionate.

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