Thanks to a close friend, Emlyn found out about the Unlock website and specifically how he could apply to Google to have links to his name removed. As his story demonstrates, this process really can be successful.
My conviction dates back to 2004, when I was 22. I was still living at home, was terrible at managing money and had an enormous amount of debt. This was mostly store and credit cards that I was struggling to pay. I had just got into a stable relationship, and things were starting to work out well for me. I took a job at a call centre for a credit card company, as it was well paid and local. I happened to have a credit card and debt with them but they didn’t check this.
Although I did not set out to, after working there for several months, I discovered that there was a way to wipe my own debt just by pushing a button. The temptation was too much for me, and although I knew it was wrong, I did it. Within seconds my entire debt was wiped. But, it didn’t stop there, I got greedy and I began transferring money from customer accounts into my bank account as cash and then replacing it with credit on their accounts so that they wouldn’t notice. Or so I thought. My own bank noticed the payments, questioned them, and informed the company that I worked for. I was immediately suspended, an investigation was completed and I was arrested and charged.
My case initially went to the magistrates court who referred it to the crown court for sentencing as I had pleaded guilty where I was given a prison sentence. Fortunately, my partner and my parents all stood by me.
All of this happened before Facebook, camera phones and other social media and I was lucky that my story was only published by one local newspaper who also spelt my name wrong. Other than this, there was no public record of my offence.
A year after my conviction my partner and I relocated to Italy, where we began work restoring a Tuscan barn. We took an Italian mortgage to pay for the work and I lived off some money that had been left to me after the death of my grandmother. Unfortunately my relationship with my partner ended and I returned home to live with my parents.
I took a job at a local coffee shop in order to get to know new people, make friends and earn an income. Whilst there I befriended a young, troubled teenager and we became close. I confided in him about my criminal conviction even though I’d not disclosed it to our employer (it hadn’t been asked for on the application form). However after a falling out, he informed our manager of my conviction.
An investigation and enquiry was conducted to determine whether I had obtained the job by deception and whether I should have informed my employers of my criminal record. I faced losing my job but after a meeting with my manager it was decided that as I hadn’t been asked about my record I shouldn’t have been expected to disclose it.
Not long after this, I received an incredible job opportunity with the chance to move to London. It was a fresh start, a way of finally putting everything behind me and to move on with my life.
Apart from the existing friends who knew about my conviction, for most of the time I lived in London I did not think about my criminal record or tell anybody about it. It was a part of my past. I had served my time, learnt from it and was now a completely different person in a different situation. I no longer had credit cards or any debt and was able to manage my finances.
However last year I started to suffer from a series of online attacks after an individual I’d had some previous dealings with came across the only article published about my criminal record. The individual concerned threatened to re-publish the article and although I consulted my solicitor and informed the police there was very little I could do as the information was already in the public domain.
The individual followed through with his threats and this resulted in further trolling and abusive messages with many of the tweets and Facebook messages branding me a “thief” and a “liar”. It was an extremely traumatic time for me and my family and friends, triggering lots of painful memories and all because of the original article which could still be found online about me.
Talking to a friend one evening he told me that there might be a way to have the article removed from the Google search and he suggested that I have a look at the Unlock website and the page relating to the “Google-effect”. It looked like the first step would be to apply to Google to get the links to my name removed from their search engine so, using the template and links on the Unlock website, I immediately completed the online form.
Four days later, I received a response and confirmation from Google that in accordance with my request, they would remove the URL’s for queries related to my name. It was astonishing news. I immediately tested it by typing in my name and sure enough, the article relating to my conviction no longer appeared. I was shocked that it worked and by how quickly it had been actioned.
The article still exists and can still be found but it no longer comes up simply by searching my name and that’s enough for me. It will no longer follow me around or be available just by searching my name. This provides comfort and assurance, knowing that I have more control over who can access this information about me. It also prevents anyone from using my criminal record against me for malicious purposes.
Had I known that it was possible to make a request to have these links removed, I could have saved myself and my family a lot of heartache and distress.
By Emlyn (name changed to protect identity)
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