Although Helen has struggled to move on since receiving her convictions, she’s more hopeful that potential changes to the filtering process will improve her future opportunities.
I didn’t really get into trouble with the law during my ‘youth’. However, aged 14 I was arrested and received a caution. Thinking back, it was around this time that I started binge drinking which began to cause me some problems.
Smoking weed and drinking heavily at the weekends was pretty much the norm amongst the gang that I hung around with and by the time I was 19 a deep depression had overtaken me.
The black cloud of depression totally engulfed me; it was overpowering and frightening for a 19 year old and I knew that I had to seek help. A visit to my GP resulted in a prescription for anti-depressants but then the opposite happened. I was getting as ‘high as a kite’, overconfident and argumentative and the weekend drink binges just got completely out of control. The depression came and went, 6 months of highs followed by a dark depressive period.
My first conviction was for drink driving and taking without consent – I ‘borrowed’ my parents car. Another drunken incident resulted in a criminal damage conviction when a friend wouldn’t let me into her house.
But then came the conviction which had the greatest impact; assault on a police constable. What can I say, I was on a night out, drunk again and angry. No doubt I was being a bit of a nuisance and somebody called the police but when they turned up I resisted arrest and assaulted the police officer (I spat on his arm). I can’t excuse my behaviour but all I can say is that the year before I’d been diagnosed with bipolar and was under the care of the mental health team. My mind was not in a good place at the time this incident happened.
I’m repentant and ashamed about my past and although my criminal record isn’t extensive, it’s affected my self-esteem and mental health, thus impeding my whole life. So, why does my record bother me so much? It’s the conviction for assault that causes me the most problems especially if I’m applying for jobs which require an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check. The word ‘assault’ is so ambiguous and it would be a huge benefit if the DBS could provide more details on my certificate so that employers had a better understanding of what I did. There’s various levels of ‘assault’ and when I explain to an employer that I spat on a PC (not something I’m proud of) I’m not sure that they always believe what I’m telling them, as assault means something very different to them.
I’m sure that there are instances where this level of detail would work against some people but perhaps the DBS could make this an ‘optional extra’ on certificates.
Anyway, onto a better note. As you can see, my past has not been great but, finally, I’ve decided that I’m not going to allow the rest of my life to be dictated by mistakes made almost a decade ago. I’m a mum now and I’m in full time employment but I know that I want to go back into working with young people.
Honestly, my convictions still bother me a great deal and I do feel that certain jobs are out of reach. However, watching the news and getting updates from Unlock, I’ve realised that I’m not alone. Campaigning and change is happening and I’m much more positive about the possibilities for the future. Knowing that there are other people in the same boat as me has made me feel less like an alien and more worthy.
Let’s hope and pray that the work that’s being done around changing the filtering process pays off and can start to benefit people like me who have more than one conviction. Fair do’s, if you commit an offence you need to be punished but do we really need to be punished for life?
By Helen (name changed to protect identity)
A comment from Unlock
The government are now appealing the High Court’s recommendations around filtering with the case due to be heard in the Supreme Court in June 2018, with a final judgement expected later in 2018. We are intervening in the Supreme Court case in June this year which challenges the government’s approach to disclosing old and minor criminal records on standard and enhanced checks issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and we’re raising money now to pay for the legal costs that will help us to do this. If you’re interested in helping us with this, please visit our CrowdJustice page.
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