Rehabilitated but Job Offer Withdrawn: Sarah’s Story
“I first became involved in the CJS when I was 17 when I was arrested for shoplifting. It was a difficult time in my life: I was misusing class A drugs. I carried on offending for the next 6 years and was convicted of further theft related offences, for which I served sentences both in the community and custody. But, I stopped misusing drugs, stopped offending and turned my life around. I applied to study for a social work degree. Both the university and registering body GSCC recognised the changes I had made, saw my CRB check and deemed me rehabilitated and suitable to study. The course went well and I enjoyed studying. I applied to spend my final year placement in a statutory social care team with a local authority. I was interviewed and provided a copy of CRB check. After a successful interview and my documents were checked by management and I was offered a placement. During my placement a vacancy opened up within the team I was shortlisted and interviewed and really pleased when I was offered the job and given a conditional contract. I successfully completed my degree and was now registered as a qualified social worker. Then the local authority received my CRB check. I was told that the job offer was being withdrawn. The reason given was that my old convictions appeared on the check. The Local Authority was not happy to proceed I was distraught to hear that the job offer had been withdrawn and was very confused. I attended meeting with members of senior management to discuss this further. I had been honest about the convictions on my CRB and the previous circumstances that lead to them. I had disclosed all of my convictions prior to being offered the job and discussed them during interview and with the management before applying. I was very confused as to why this authority had allowed me to practice as a student but felt that the risk changed when looking to employ me. The meeting did not change the outcome. I’d worked hard to turn my life around. I’d stopped offending, I’d found something worthwhile that helped others and I’d studied hard and trained in order to do it. But now I was being prevented from working. And it’s not just me. This happens to thousands of people who turn their lives around only to find that the door shuts in their face. Something needs to change.”
Case studies from Nacro’s Resettlement Advice Service
How Old and Minor convictions continue to blight lives….
Soldier in British Army refused naturalisation because of no-trial criminal conviction
Isimeli Balewai, known as Bale, is a Foreign and Commonwealth Soldier originally from Fiji. He served thirteen years with the British Army, joining when he was eighteen years old. His wife Kim is British, as are their two young children. Bale had an exemplary service record, a row of medals and served operational tours in Bosnia, Belfast and Afghanistan as well as two tours in Iraq.
In June 2012 he was voluntarily discharged from the Armed forces and he applied for naturalisation. But, the UKBA refused his application stating he had an ‘unspent’ conviction under the Rehabilitation and Offenders Act 1974. He was also informed that he and his family would have to leave the UK by the 9th August.
Bale had received a thousand pound fine in 2011 for fighting with a fellow soldier who had instigated the fight. The incident was dealt with in-house via an internal disciplinary known as a summary hearing, which was conducted by his Commanding Officer.
Bale was completely unaware that a finding of guilt at the summary hearing would result in a criminal conviction, as the process does not involve the police, a legal defence, or even a jury: the whole process is handled solely by the Commanding Officer. Changes made to the Armed Forces Act 2006 to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 mean that when a charge is heard summarily by an officer and is proved, it is now treated as a criminal conviction and the punishment is therefore a sentence.
Bale has appealed against the summary conviction, and now he and his family are fighting to stay in the country.
Update to Bale’s Case
On 20th November 2012 Bale was found not guilty at his Court Martial. The UKBA are now amending their policy so that Foreign and Commonwealth Soldiers will not be refused settlement as a result of having unspent minor criminal convictions. Bale and his family will be allowed to stay in the country.
Minor Offences in youth continue to hinder nursing career
Helen committed some minor offences in her youth which led to receiving 2 convictions for common assault and two driving offences over 25 years ago.
She moved on with her life and successfully qualified as a nurse in 2009. She disclosed her cautions to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) upon registration. At the same time she applied for her cautions to be ‘Stepped Down’ by her local police force. Step down is a process where the police filter old minor cautions or conviction off CRB disclosures so that they are not disclosed to the employer. Her request was granted in October 2009 – just before the process was stopped and reversed.
Helen recently applied successfully for another nursing job in a new area, and has already relocated, but she is afraid that she will now have the job offer withdrawn as her past cautions will be now disclosed to the new employer. She was never informed by the police that stepped down no longer applies, so she did not inform her new employer about her past offences. This is important as it highlights that there was already a filtering system in place. Many employers will determine risk based on what is disclosed so will inform applicants if you get the offences removed then we will accept you, but if you don’t we cannot employ you.
Reprimand for shoplifting affects university application
Christine was age 14 at the time of her offence. The nature of the offence was shoplifting to the value of £16.55 (lip gloss and a nail varnish) from Boots the chemist. However at the time she was with two other girls who had being bulling her at school and felt she felt she had no choice in the events that occurred, They had £50 of birthday money on her that day as the parents gave her permission to go to town after school to spend the said money. (The police were also aware of this) Her parents were called to the police station and at the time felt Christine should be punished for the offence to make her realise the seriousness of her mistake; however they were told by the police that Christine would only get a reprimand. Also on the copy of the reprimand it clearly states, as they were informed that the reprimand would last 5 years or until her 18th birthday. As Christine wanted to go into nursing/midwifery she started a cadetship national health course, she was honest with the course tutor and told her of her mistake. She was accepted on to the course however when it came to her first placement the NHS Trust would not accept her as a student on placement due to the Enhanced CRB. Fortunately, another NHS Foundation Trust did accept her and all was well. She was able to complete her course and looked forward to studying at University. Christine is now filling out her form for university and once again the old mistake has reared its head!! Christine is and always has been a model A to A* Student and has never been in any trouble prior and since the shop lifting offence as a child.
Caution for wrong ticket hinders career as solicitor
Andrew was involved in an incident 6yrs ago when he was 39 years old. He was unemployed at the time. He was caught by the British Transport Police for not having a valid ticket for travelling on the tube. He did actually have a Zone1 to 2 travel card but he was travelling in Zone 6 and a policeman apprehended him. He was given a date to attend a police station where he was informed about a caution and told it would much easier if he accepted the caution as it was a much faster way to deal with it. They told Andrew that he would not have to declare the caution in the future to any one, and it would not appear unless he committed a relevant offence. Andrew is now applying to become a solicitor, but was put off from applying for several years as he felt too ashamed.
Fully-qualified counsellor continues to face barriers
Sandra had suffered from of domestic abuse since age 11, which ultimately led to her leaving home at 18. In the years leading up-to her caution and conviction, she also suffered domestic abuse in all forms – physical, emotional, financial and sexual at the hands of her son’s father whom she had been in a relationship with since she was a teenager. She received a caution and later a conviction for obtaining property by deception, which she was forced to carry out by her ex-partner. She was living in fear for her life at the time of committing the offences. She was also drinking and taking drugs. She gave up a number of years ago and made many positive changes in her life after serving a two-week prison sentence. She managed to completely turn her life around becoming a fully-qualified counsellor working with women and children who have also suffered domestic abuse. She is also a loving mother to a son, who is stable and secure and she is very proud of what they have both achieved. However, she has still faced barriers moving on with her life and recently struggled to obtain a place studying for a MA in Social Work due to her past mistakes.
Company’s review of employment policy renders reformed offender an unacceptable risk
Steven had a range of minor convictions over 20 years ago, which ultimately led to him serving a couple of short sentences, one in a YOI, the other in an adult jail. He was able to completely move on with his life and worked successfully in regulated activity as a Care worker. He worked for an organisation for over 7 years in total. He worked for this organisation on two separate occasions. He had a good work record and was never subject to any disciplinary proceedings or allegations of harming anyone but his employer recently dismissed him solely on the basis that another employee of the company -who was also an ex-offender- committed a serious offence which led to them going to prison.
Although the other employee did not commit a work-related offence, and the conviction was not related to abusing a vulnerable person, the company decided to review their policies relating to employing ex-offenders and determined that Mr Z’s prior convictions rendered him an unacceptable risk, despite the fact he had been risk assessed on both occasions that he worked for them. Steven had never met the other individual, and worked in a completely different branch over 300 miles away, yet he was dismissed due to actions of another employee that happened to be an ex-offender.
The following case study is from Unlock
Adam and his wife had recently applied to be adoptive parents. In 1988 he had been convicted of using threatening language and fined £75.
Until recently, old and minor convictions such as this were often ‘stepped-down’ by the police and so were not disclosed on CRB checks. As a result, Adam didn’t disclose his conviction because he understood it wouldn’t be necessary.
However, since October 2009, all convictions have been disclosed and so his CRB check highlighted the conviction. His application was refused because he had not disclosed his criminal record.
Adam came to Unlock at the appeal stage. Unlock’s information & advice team wrote him a supporting letter, explaining how the change in the law made it understandable that he didn’t disclose the information in his application, and alleviating concerns about his integrity. As a result, Adam’s appeal was successful, and he is able to continue in the adoption process and provide a stable and loving home for a child without parents.
Children in care are more than twice as likely to be cautioned or convicted than their peers. So excluding or discouraging good potential parents due to old, minor and unrelated convictions could actually increase crime if more young people are destined for a life in care as a result.