For many people who receive a conviction, the fact that it impacts on so many areas of their life can come as a huge shock. Sammy has faced discrimination from employers and insurers and believes society and government should be doing more to help people move on from their past mistakes.
Last year I received a conviction for ‘making indecent images of children’. Having gone through the process of going to court, I had very little understanding of the resulting impact the conviction would have on my life.
I was dismissed from my job as a company director, neighbours that I’d always thought of as friends ostracised me and, my wife and I separated.
I’ve learnt to deal with the humiliation and embarrassment of having to declare what I’ve done to family and old friends. However, the real difficulty I’ve found is that it’s virtually impossible for me to find work. I’ve never been unemployed but since my conviction I can’t even seem to get myself an interview let alone a job offer.
The majority of employers and agencies ask applicants to disclose any unspent convictions and although I understand that it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to work with children, my conviction is not relevant to the work I once did.
One national recruitment agency told me that they would not accept any job application from me because of the sexual nature of my conviction. Others have said it would be difficult to place me. I suspect that of the agencies I’ve disclosed to, many have taken the decision not to share my CV with their clients.
I’ve also realised how easy it is for companies to carry out internet searches on my name which means they come across all the details of my case. I’ve started to think that these companies will then conveniently bin my application form. The problem is, I can’t ask them if they’re aware of my conviction just in case I draw their attention to it – a vicious circle.
I was recently offered a post in a retirement village run by a charity. I wasn’t asked about my conviction at the interview but once I’d been offered the role I disclosed my conviction on the very first day of work. Sadly, the Chief Executive decided that I was a reputational risk and my contract was terminated.
I’m so disappointed to find that even when my sentence is completed I’ll still face a life-time of punishment by society and I can see very little prospect of obtaining any kind of job in the field that I’ve previously worked in.
For me this means that I can’t contribute to the family finances which have dramatically increased due to the need for me to have alternative accommodation. I can’t pay towards the upkeep of my children and I’ll be unable to help them out when they go to university or want a car or help to buy a house. I’m unable to pay my taxes and once my savings have run out, I will become a burden on society.
In addition to this, I’ve recently had to renew my car insurance but because of my conviction many insurers increased my premium and one insurer refused completely to give me a quote. I can’t make out how my risk as a driver would increase due to a completely unrelated offence.
I don’t diminish in anyway the severity of my offence or other sexual offences but society seems to have gotten itself into a state of righteous indignation about anything sexual. Of course I accept that offenders need to be punished. But there has to be an end date for that punishment. A record may need to be kept forever by the police in case there is any re-offending in the future. But how much of this should be held confidentially and how much should be available for public scrutiny. I might have an opinion on this, but I’m just a lay-man, with a conflict of interest.
I consider myself a normal, law-abiding citizen the same as any other citizen. I got caught up in something I shouldn’t have but it was for a very short period of time. It was out-of-character and I took my own steps to remove myself from that behaviour long before the police knocked on my door.
If there’s any chance of change, then government needs to look into the practices of organisations who impose less advantageous terms on people with a criminal record, even when their offence has nothing to do with the service/product they’re looking for. We’ve paid the price for our mistakes, can’t we now just be left to move on.
By Sammy (name changed to protect identity)
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