Case of Patrick – Spent convictions online jeopardising self-employment

Five years ago, Patrick was convicted of a fraud offence and received a 12 month prison sentence. Patrick told us that at the time of his conviction, he was in a difficult place having built up some debts due to an addiction to gambling. His arrest was the ‘shock’ he needed to face up to his addiction and seek help for it.

He knew how difficult it would be to find work with a criminal record and took the decision upon release from prison to become self-employed. He invested significant time and money in setting up and marketing his business and it wasn’t long before it started to take off and he was able to live off the earnings from it.

When his conviction became spent last year, Patrick felt that this would open up even more opportunities for his business and started to look at taking on contracts with larger organisations including local schools and councils.

It was only when he started to apply for these types of contacts that he realised that there was information about his conviction online and that many of the organisations he was looking to work with did ‘informal’ online searches to find out what they could about potential contractors These searches have resulted in Patrick losing two, three-year contracts of around £40,000 per year with a local council and a further £8000 annual contact with some local schools.

Once he became aware of the online links, Patrick contacted Google and made a request for the links to be removed on the basis that his conviction was spent and the continued presence of information online was having an adverse effect on his business. Google refused his request. Patrick did not make a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office and we have advised him that it may be worth him doing so.

Patrick said:

“I understand why schools and councils need to be cautious about the individuals they work with. But there’s lots of people with convictions like mine whose details can’t be found online, so these organisations are employing them without knowing. Surely it would be better for employers to carry out the relevant level of formal criminal record check and then deal with cases on an individual basis.”

Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on the google effect.
  2. We have practical guidance on dealing with information on the internet, online and through search engines like Google.
  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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