SPENT v UNSPENT CONVICTIONS
Two years ago, Andrew was in a bad place, he was using drugs and hanging around with people who weren’t a positive influence on him. He was convicted of using a stolen credit card, he pleaded Guilty at court and served half of a 26 week custodial sentence. On his release, he resolved never to go back to that way of life. He moved to a new area and signed up with a local recruitment agency who offered him a job in a local warehouse.
On the application form he was asked whether he had any unspent convictions. His understanding was that he had served his sentence and as the remaining 13 weeks of the sentence had elapsed since he was released from prison he didn’t need to disclose it. He believed that his conviction was spent and he ticked the box on the form to say that he had no unspent convictions.
What Andrew didn’t realise was that under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 his conviction was not spent until a period of two years had gone by, and therefore he had completed the form incorrectly.
He settled into his new job well and was praised by his manager during his probationary reviews. After around 6 weeks in the role he was called to a meeting with his manager and HR; they had applied for a DBS check as they do with all new employees and the details of his conviction had come up. When they checked back on his application form he hadn’t disclosed anything and so they needed to address the discrepancy.
The company, although impressed with Andrew’s work, had no choice but to release him from his employment due to the company’s policy of not employing anyone with a criminal conviction for dishonesty. They also reported the matter to the local police and to his astonishment, Andrew was charged with the offence of Fraud by False Representation.
The thought of going through another court case and possibly going back to prison filled him with sheer horror and dread. All he had done since coming out of prison was try to move on from his past and make a future for himself, and it was all falling apart around him.
When Andrew called us, he had already spoken to another law firm who had advised him to plead Guilty as the fact he had another recent conviction for dishonesty would go against him.
However, for the Crown to successfully argue Fraud they have to be able to prove intent; that he knew he was being untruthful and that he deliberately concealed his criminal background in order to make a financial gain.
Speaking to Andrew and hearing his story this was clearly not the situation. He had made a misinformed decision. He should have checked his facts and not relied on an assumption, but he did not deliberately mislead anyone and we advised him to plead Not Guilty on the basis it was an honest mistake.
Andrew was cleared by a unanimous verdict in the Crown Court in Newcastle, and can now move on with his life. He also now knows his obligations in disclosing his past under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The legislation is in place to protect the public from certain offenders, not to punish those convicted of a minor offence for the rest of their lives. People can, and do, rehabilitate and move on.
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