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On the Record

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On the Record

When you talk about a young person being arrested the focus is always on their crime or the nature of their punishment. Often it seems that once a person has served their sentence then the story is over. But what actually happens next? How does having a conviction on file really affect your future? IP1 offered three young offenders a chance to set the record straight.

As a teenager Alice was a casual shoplifter. Hungry for excitement she and her friends would periodically steal things from local shops during school-time. “On this occasion I stole a CD from a well known music shop,” she says. Whilst she’d never been caught for anything before, all it took was an ill-timed practical joke to change her life.

“One of my friends was messing about and put a CD in my coat hood,” says Alice. “This got the attention of security.” Upon searching her staff found stolen property in her pocket. Arriving on the scene the police took her down the station. Alice was given a reprimand, and not only were her details and photograph taken but her fingerprints and DNA were placed on record. “I was told that the reprimand would expire when I reached 18,” she says.

It would be easy to think that Alice had gotten off lightly. But years later something happened that came as a massive shock. Upon finishing her degree Alice had to find work and applied for a job with the NHS, who ran a routine Criminal Records Bureau check. “When I applied ‘Shoplifting’ was on my CRB disclosure,” says Alice.

Although her conviction and reprimand were spent, regulation had changed since the time of her offence. Whilst failing to get the NHS position wouldn’t significantly affect her future, there was a much larger ramification of having a mark on her record. “[By this time] I knew that I wanted to train for a career in teaching,” she admits. But without passing an Enhanced Disclosure there was no chance Alice would be able to find work as a teacher.

Fortunately, as her offence was minor and committed as a juvenile, it was possible to have the record erased but Alice had to provide justification. The fact that she had never again broken the law and could evidence that she had dedicated her adult life to a career in teaching were taken into account and her record was cleared. Now, years down the line, Alice is a qualified teacher and helping to inspire a new generation of children. But despite this she is very aware that a hastily pocketed copy of Extreme Garage 3 almost cost her future career.

Prior to his offence Myk was working as Head of Kitchen at a major restaurant. One day a spur of the moment decision changed the course of his life. “I [used] the company [wholesale] card to buy just one carton of cigarettes,” he says. Weeks passed and the company didn’t notice the irregularity. It became a regular habit. Before long he’d found someone willing to sell the cigarettes on. He claims, “I was earning in the region of £500 - £2,000 per week.” It all became a bit of a blur; Myk found he could scarcely believe what he was involved in but continued to take greater risks.

“Blindsighted by the free money I was making I became greedy,” says Myk. Every time he visited the wholesalers he was making larger and larger purchases on the card. “The last run I did I collected £8,000 pounds worth, [roughly] 120 cartons,” he admits. Before long Myk’s employers noticed the increasingly erratic charges being made to their accounts and they notified the authorities. “The last time I went there the police were waiting for me at the exit,” he says. “I knew the game was up.”

Myk was held in the cells at Ipswich Police Station whilst his activities were investigated. When his case was heard he pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud by false representation. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service; three months with an ankle tag and an 18-month suspended sentence.

Unsurprisingly, Myk’s punishment had a huge effect on him. Community service was a degrading experience. His group was required to work outside litter-picking or gardening, wearing embarrassingly conspicuous orange bibs emblazoned with the words ‘Community Payback’. Myk found himself stricken by very low moods, exacerbated by his restricted mobility. “[The ankle] tag was the worst,” he says. “Not being able to work, sitting at home all day and [then because of] the tag being alone at night too… It all just kinda built up.”

His record also prevented him from being able to find work; all too often potential employers wouldn’t even grace him with a response. Fortunately a good friend vouched for him at his place of work. Myk says, “He spoke to his manager and said that he trusted me more than anything, and knew how remorseful I was.” The manager took a chance on Myk and gave him an opportunity that many would have denied him. It’s a trust that has been repaid many times since.

Myk’s experience has taught him at least one valuable thing: “Life is too short as it is, let alone to be locked up for most of it. Because of this whole situation my life is back on track.”

 

The price of a conviction isn’t always as simple as a criminal record. Sometimes it can rob you of more than just your freedom.

The night of Tim’s crime was nothing out of the ordinary. “We [were going to do] the usual thing… have a laugh, a drink and hope to meet a girl.” After several drinks Tim found himself chatting to someone and offered to walk her home but as they made their journey they encountered a foreign male who began to berate the young girl. Tim ran over to a group of young lads and told them what was happening. All too quickly the situation spiralled out of control. “Before we knew it he was on the floor.”

Everything was caught on CCTV. Tim was soon arrested and found himself facing conviction for a major crime. To make matters worse, in the period between his arrest and trial, his older brother tragically took his own life. Despite this Tim was sentenced to 18-months in prison for racially-motivated assault; he was told he was to be incarcerated shortly after his brother’s funeral.

Prison was like nothing he’d experienced before. “The first month was hell.” He was surrounded by strangers, with no idea how he’d be treated. Even worse he found he couldn’t properly mourn the loss of his brother in such an environment. “I couldn’t cry. [My] cell mates would think I was crying ‘cause I couldn’t handle it.” Mostly Tim kept himself to himself, attending courses and visiting the gym and was eventually given early release for good behaviour.

“Coming out of prison was a mixed bag of emotions. I was happy to be in the fresh air, seeing trees, the sky, birds; everything you see out your cell window.” But he found it took him a long time to adjust. He finally had to grieve for the loss of his elder brother and he often found social situations difficult. “I wasn’t good in big groups; didn’t like people getting too close. I was a different person.” Gradually though he found he readjusted to life outside prison and was able to begin his life again.

Whilst Tim’s experience was an incredibly tough one, he found a reason to keep his head down and focus on what was important. “I knew I’d get out and [wasn’t there] for life. In the end I just did it for my bro.”

Words: Josh Russell

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