Case study – Gerry – Excessive interventions by the police and probation can affect an individual’s ability to move on with their lives

Gerry contacted our helpline for some advice around employment and, in particular, the pressure he was being put under by the police and probation to disclose his conviction to his employer, even though his employers had never asked him to disclose.

Gerry explained that he’d been convicted of a sexual offence and although he’d never been to prison, he was on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR). He’d developed a good working relationship with his previous probation officer who had encouraged him to find a job, believing that it was likely to reduce Gerry’s risk of re-offending. After many job applications, Gerry found himself a job with an employer who didn’t ask applicants any questions about criminal records. He was enjoying the work and felt that he was in a ‘good place’. His probation officer told him:

“I’ve seen the difference in you when you’re working and when you’re not. Your depression and mental health seem to have improved and I believe you are less of a risk and less likely to re-offend now that you’re working.”

However, following staffing changes at probation he’d been allocated a new officer who, along with Gerry’s supervising police officer, thought that it was important for him to disclose his conviction to his employers.

Gerry told our helpline advisor that he was extremely concerned that if he did disclose his conviction to his employer, he would lose his job which could potentially lead to a return of his depression.

We advised him to arrange a meeting with his probation and police officers to make them aware of his fears around disclosing to his employer and also to highlight the views of his previous probation officer that he was less likely to re-offend if he were in employment.

A few days later Gerry contacted us again with an update. He’d been sent a text message from his probation officer to let him know that he would be visiting Gerry’s employer with his supervising police officer the following day to disclose the details of Gerry’s conviction. Gerry told us that he’d rather leave the job, than have his conviction disclosed and he was on his way to a meeting with his probation officer.

We suggested that Gerry ask the officers to:

  • Set out in writing the reasons why they believed it was necessary to disclose his conviction to his employers.
  • Provide details of the risk they believed he posed to work colleagues and members of the public.

Gerry contacted us later that day stating he’d made representation to the officers, but they were adamant that they were still going to disclose as “they were being ordered to by their senior management”. Gerry immediately contacted his employer and resigned from his job.

Three weeks later Gerry’s father contacted us to let us know that since resigning from his job, his son had committed a further offence and was currently on remand in prison.

Lessons

Whilst we appreciate the difficulties that the police and probation have in risk assessing individuals, there are occasions when the assessments they carry out don’t match the evidence that is available to them.

As Gerry’s case demonstrates, even though his previous probation officer felt that being in work would reduce his risk of re-offending and had been happy for him to accept the job without disclosing, a change of supervising officer meant that it became necessary for Gerry to disclose the conviction.

It’s interesting to see that the decision to disclose the conviction seems to have been made by ‘senior management’ and not the officers who dealt with Gerry on a day to day basis.

We’re aware that decisions can change when an individual gets allocated a new police or probation officer. However:

  1. If you feel that an officer is acting disproportionately when asking you to disclose your conviction, ask that they put their reasons in writing.
  2. If you disagree with the reasons, you should appeal the decision in writing, providing reasons and evidence of why the disclosure is not appropriate.
  3. If the decision has been made by ‘senior management’, request an appointment with them, so they can explain their decision to you.
  4. If, having made your representations, the police/probation still believe it’s appropriate to disclose, ask them to allow you to disclose to your employers yourself – you’ll be in a better position to explain the circumstances surrounding your conviction and answer any questions your employer may have.

Links

Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

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