Like may teenagers, I suffered at the hands of the school bully and like many teenagers, the day came when I finally decided that enough was enough and retaliated. The result was a fight in the school playground when I was 15 years old.

The police were called and I was taken to the local police station. The police officer dealing with my case listened to my side of the story and seemed genuinely concerned about me. He suggested that the best thing would be for me to accept a warning for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He told me that if I did, I’d be able to go home quickly, wouldn’t have the hassle of going to court and in any case, it would be wiped from my record when I was 18. It seemed the best option at the time. The year was 2003 and I’d never been in any trouble before and I’ve not been in any trouble since.

I put the whole thing out of my mind and started to concentrate on my future.

My troubles only really started in 2010 when I decided that I wanted to work in healthcare. I’d received an offer from one of the top universities in the country but, once the university received copy of my CRB (now a DBS) certificate, they revoked the offer.

Desperate to get work, I looked to go into the security industry but found it really, really hard to get my SIA badge. Initially I was rejected but, a very supportive employer wrote a fantastic letter of support and I eventually got my badge. I went on to work at some very high profile events.

As a caring individual, I knew I couldn’t give up on my ambition to be a nurse and decided to go through the university’s appeals process. This was the first of many times that I’d have to write out a disclosure statement explaining to an interview or risk assessment panel how I’d ended up with this warning on my record. Disclosure has never gotten any easier for me – each time as traumatic as the first because it takes me back to a really bad time in my life that people just won’t let me move on from . Thinking back to what was going on in my life back then reduces me to tears.

I worked really hard, finished my nursing course and started applying for jobs. I always disclosed my warning on application forms and there were many times when I never heard anything back from an employer. I’ll never know whether it was because of the warning or because there were other more suitable candidates.

Eventually, I received a job offer. I had to write another disclosure statement which was read by so many people – people that I would potentially have to work with!! I had to have a further telephone interview with my manager where I had to explain the warning all over again. I think the process took about five months in all but eventually I thought I had things settled.

Sadly this was not to be the case. As well as my main job, I wanted to apply to join the hospital’s ‘bank list’ which would have enabled me to do overtime shifts around the hospital. Yet another application form asked me to disclose details of my criminal record which I was asked to complete and leave in my new manager’s mail tray (on her desk) ready for her to sign off. I was extremely worried about who would potentially see this form and concerned that my personal information was not being more carefully protected.

After yet another discussion about the warning, my manager refused to sign off my application form stating that she ‘didn’t think I was ready for this’. However, I knew that several of my co-workers (who had considerably less experience than me), had been signed up really quickly and were already doing overtime shifts.

Over time, I’ve noticed how differently I’ve been treated from my co-workers and how my manager rarely makes eye contact with me. Sometimes I’d like to shout out

Just because I’ve got assault on my record, doesn’t mean I’m dangerous

Recently I applied for a job with another nursing agency and as usual, disclosed my warning on the application form. However, once the agency had reviewed my references and my DBS certificate, the job offer was rescinded.

I’m now at the point where I feel employers and agencies only offer me interviews to stop them being accused of discrimination. However, once they see details of my record in black and white, my CV/job offer goes in the bin.

The Government talks about rehabilitation but never stops to consider why re-offending rates are so high. I’ve really struggled to move on with my life because something I did as a child is always hanging over my head. It’s been over 12 years since that stupid fight in the playground but, because my offence is a violent one, it will never be filtered from DBS certificates and will stay with me for life.

 

By Helen (name changed to protect identity)

 

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