Ten years ago I received a conviction for a sexual offence. I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to say that, I am still filled with feelings of disgust and utterly ashamed at what I did. At the time, my life was out of control, don’t get me wrong I’m not making excuses, I shouldn’t have done what I did. I pleaded guilty and I received a custodial sentence.
I’m not one of those people who constantly whinge and feels sorry for myself. I don’t blame ‘the world and his wife’ for what’s happened to me. We all make our own choices and I have to live with mine.
All things considered, I think I’m doing OK. Yes it was hard when I first came out of prison just coming to terms with what I had done and what had happened to me. Prison was certainly never on my list of ‘places to visit before I die’. I did everything that my probation officer asked of me and I am always totally up front and honest with my PPU officer. I don’t consider myself a risk. I’m not going to reoffend and I have nothing to hide. Being a very private person, I initially found questions from the PPU officer quite intrusive but I realised very early on that she was only doing her job. I had allowed myself to be in this position by offending but if I co-operated with her, then hopefully in time, she would be prepared to put more trust in me. That’s exactly what happened. She appreciated my openness and honesty and has always been extremely helpful and supportive.
I met a lovely lady approximately 4 years ago and I disclosed my conviction to her (as I was told to do). I think she was surprised and I am sure there must have been moments when she wondered whether a relationship with me was worth the effort (although she never voiced this to me). We set up home together and made the ultimate commitment – we got a dog.
Like anybody with my sort of conviction getting work has been difficult. Many times my application was never acknowledged even though I knew I had the necessary skills and experience. On other occasions when I disclosed at interview I could see the look of disgust on a manager’s face. I just kept on trying and applied for everything I could and eventually I managed to secure a job. I worked hard, got promoted and then got head-hunted by a competitor.
As my relationship with my partner developed, we made the decision to move house and set up a business together. We wanted to spend more time together and I wanted to move away from the high-pressured, stressful environment that I was working in.
Our new business needed insurance and as I had pretty much put my conviction behind me taking out a commercial insurance policy did not worry me unduly. Oh dear – how wrong I was. Unlike personal insurance, I was duty bound to disclose my conviction as a ‘material fact’. I rang a couple of companies advertising on the internet but didn’t even get the chance to explain the nature of my conviction, the minute I answered yes to the ‘have you got any criminal convictions’ question they told me they could not help. In desperation I turned to the Unlock website – excellent there were brokers who stated that they insured people with my type of conviction. I rang the first one and had to disclose the nature of my offence, when it occurred and the sentence I received. I had achieved so much over the last few years that I had forgotten what it felt like to disclose but that sense of shame and humiliation came flooding back. The broker was great, I guess he’s heard it all before. He said he would ring around and come back to me with the best quote. He did come back to me and told me that although as a broker he had no issue with the nature of my conviction, but due to the fact that I was looking for commercial insurance, he could not find anybody to underwrite the policy.
I rang two more brokers on the Unlock list and got the same answer. They all said that if I had wanted personal insurance they would have no problem sourcing something but commercial insurance was a big ‘no’. For the first time in a very long time, I was reminded of those early days when rejection was a regular occurrence. It was like being on trial all over again. I could see my plans for the new business and future with my wonderful partner just slipping away. Worst of all, it felt like my partner was being punished for my convictions.
Further searches on the internet and many phone calls later and I managed to find somebody willing to insure me. I know that I am paying 3 times more than somebody without a conviction which is not great and an expense that a new business could well do without. However, astonishingly I have only just realised that whatever I have done since leaving prison and whatever I achieve in the future, I am never truly going to be free from my conviction. I have always been able to remain positive, I have never felt sorry for myself and I have never shouted about ‘discrimination’ but I have been really shocked that my conviction should have such a massive impact on purchasing an insurance policy.
I understand why employers need to know about my past, I have accepted that I needed to disclose to my new partner and her family but I fail to see how my conviction has any bearing on a commercial insurance policy.
I am determined not to become bitter about this. If nothing else, it has just given me even more motivation to make a success of my business and provide for my new family.