Case of Marcus – Disclosure of convictions given to youths continue to punish and prevents them from reaching their full potential

In 1995 Marcus was convicted of 6 offences although he appeared in court only once. The six offences were committed between 1992 and 1994 when Marcus was aged between 14 and 16. He was arrested and charged when he was 17 years old but by the time he appeared at the magistrate’s court for sentencing he was 18.

In 2013 with the help of a solicitor, Marcus applied to the courts for ‘leave to appeal out of time’. Unfortunately this was refused. He took his case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission but again, was unsuccessful.

In the same year, after applying for an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, Marcus was told by the DBS that they would not be including him on either the children or adults barred list as they didn’t believe that it was appropriate to do so. However. as Marcus says:

“Not being on the barred list means nothing because the convictions will show up regardless of the list. Some companies implement a risk assessment for you to pass, so even if the DBS themselves say you’re not on their barred list, the company can override this with a risk assessment and you don’t get the job.”

Although on the face of it, Marcus’ case may seem complicated, the background to the offences are important and the circumstances surrounding the case are paramount. However, these don’t show on a DBS certificate so don’t offer an employer a true reflection of the context of the offences.

Marcus was convicted of taking indecent photographs and an indecent assault on a female. He is the first to admit that the offences look terrible but explains that they were committed when he was very young and influenced by a man, 50 years older than him who was already a convicted paedophile who’d served a prison sentence for a sexual offence. This man groomed Marcus at a vulnerable time in his life, sexually abused him and manipulated Marcus into believing that he cared for him, loved him and understood him.

At the time, Marcus was a lonely child, bullied, outcast and struggling terribly with his gender identity (which at that time was a completely taboo subject). He was struggling with mental health problems and isolation. So when he was shown some attention he was drawn to the older man. Over time this man convinced Marcus to film children on the beach for him suggesting that if he didn’t he would no longer offer Marcus his support and friendship.

Marcus received a community order following conviction and the older man a long prison sentence. However, Marcus believes that his punishment has been greater as he continues to be punished 22 years after the event, whereas the older man was retired and the conviction had no impact on his employment opportunities.

Marcus believes that the convictions and subsequent DBS checks have had an extremely damaging effect on him. It has influenced the direction of his life in a negative way, has prevented him from pursuing an interesting career, both in paid work and voluntary work. It has lost him jobs after successful interviews, prevented him from joining a mental health charity and has been a constant source of punishment, humiliation and the biggest hurdle in his struggle with mental health problems. It has prevented him from applying to go on holidays which required a visa and stopped him from engaging in any job or action that required disclosure. It continues to punish him and has left him financially poor and vulnerable.

Marcus stated:

“No matter how hard you work, how much time and energy you give to make amends, how may people believe in you enough to give you a character reference, how much good you do to try to compensate for any wrongdoing, this time-bomb continues to blow up in your face. It depletes you of any sense of control over your life, drags you down and places you in a negative place mentally.

 

No good can come of a system that does not allow forgiveness through good deeds and what do you do if you can never work off a conviction? Where do you go?”

Commenting on Marcus’ experience, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“This case shows the importance of recognising how all “types” of offence can have context which mean they should be considered for potentially being removed from DBS checks”.

 

Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on challenging the DBS ‘filtering’ process.
  2. We have practical guidance on filtering of spent cautions/convictions – a simple guide.
  3. Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
  4. Other policy cases are listed here.
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