The free newsletter for law-abiding people facing discrimination and inequality as a result of a criminal record
social (not) working Letter from the Editor ERICA CROMPTON
Heard the story about the unscrupulous employer who rejected the most suitable candidate for a job because he did a quick Google search and found out said candidate had an irrelevant criminal conviction? No. I thought not. That’s because, as Timothy Pitt-Payne writes in his new policy paper, discrimination such as this is very difficult to prove. Where once we may have had a problem with local newspapers, now decidedly decadent, the internet is growing faster at gathering and spreading information. More worryingly, cyber words become weapons when in the hands of Joe Public – your uneducated next door neighbour who has weaned his opinions on The Sun. Potentially ruinous in many ways. This is just one of four reasons PittPayne outlines as to why the ROA is out of date. It’s 2011. We’ve been digital for a while. It’s time Members of Parliament took off their kipper ties. Welcome to The Record, a monthly newsletter about reformed offenders, for reformed offenders.
Index P1 P2 P3 P4 P7 P8 P9 P10
Editors Letter, Recognition of Reform The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act ISA Essay: Forgiveness, On the Forum, Film Review: Not a Patch on Snatch Second Chance: The Seven Year Pitch Second Chance: Outside These Walls Press & Media
recognition of reform UNLOCK makes Guardian Charity Awards Shortlist Erica crompton
We’re over the moon that UNLOCK has been selected from over 900 entries, to be on the shortlist for the Guardian 2011 Charity Awards. David Brindle, Public Services Editor of the Guardian writes of the awards, in the Guardian newspaper: “Smaller charities are all too often overshadowed by the big players of the voluntary sector. Even though small is very often beautiful in terms of innovation, flexibility and reach into communities, it’s invariably the multi-million-pound household names of the charity world that grab the limelight. “The Guardian Charity Awards seek
to redress that. For 19 years, we have showcased excellence among small and medium-sized charities and given a muchneeded boost to organisations struggling to get the profile and funding they need to move forward. “Our entry criteria mean that the big names cannot exert their usual dominance. The awards offer a priceless leg-up to organisations that are delivering practical solutions to present-day problems, never more important than at a time of economic difficulty and unprecedented public spending cuts.” To find out more about the awards and to see us on the list click here. Join UNLOCK as a Member to receive your free copy of The Record directly every month. Click here.
The REHAbilitation of offenders act 1974 A suitable case for reform? timothy pitt-payne qc
Will a criminal conviction lead to a lifetime of unemployment? This is the outcome that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is intended to avoid. The Act provides for certain convictions to become “spent”, after a period of time has elapsed. Thereafter an individual is entitled not to disclose them to a prospective employer, even in response to a direct question. The Act states that a spent conviction, or a failure to disclose it, is not a proper ground for dismissing or excluding a person from any employment. In a recent policy paper for Halsbury’s Law Exchange, a legal think-tank, I argue that the 1974 Act is in urgent need of reform. I identify four main problems. First, there is an indirect route whereby unscrupulous employers can circumvent the Act. The Police National Computer (PNC) holds an extensive record of criminal convictions. Data protection legislation gives individuals a right of access to their own PNC record. An employer can require individuals to exercise this right so as obtain a complete PNC printout, presenting it to the employer before any job offer is confirmed. The technical term for this practice is “enforced subject access”. Secondly, the 1974 Act assumes that the main way for an employer to find out about criminal convictions is by asking job candidates whether they have a criminal record. That assumption is becoming increasingly outdated: there is a good chance the information will be available somewhere online, capable of being found with a few clicks of a mouse. Thirdly, the 1974 Act does not explain what legal remedy you have if you are refused employment because of a spent conviction. It says that this is “not a proper ground” for excluding a person from employment; but it does not set out the legal consequences that follow where an employer breaches this principle. Nor is there any case-law dealing
with the question, which suggests that individuals have not been bringing court claims for breach of their rights under the Act. Finally, there are numerous exemptions to the 1974 Act: there are many situations in which an employer is entitled to find out about all convictions (spent and unspent alike) by obtaining a standard or enhanced criminal record certificate from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). The wider these exceptions become, the greater the risk that the original purpose of the 1974 Act will be obscured.
What is the solution? In my policy paper I take a similar approach to that adopted by UNLOCK in their response to the recent Government consultation paper Breaking the Cycle. I argue that the 1974 Act should be revised, in the light of modern discrimination legislation: just as you must not discriminate against job candidates because of their sex, race, or other protected characteristic, so too you should not be able to discriminate against them on the ground that they have a spent conviction.
The REHAbilitation of offenders act 1974
Admittedly, it would not be easy to prove that an individual had been turned down for a job for this reason; but sex and race discrimination are also hard to prove, and the law has developed various mechanisms to deal with this, such as the use of statutory questionnaires to help gather evidence of discrimination. The remedies for employment discrimination are well-established, including financial compensation and (on occasion) recommendations by the Employment Tribunal as to the employerâ€™s future conduct. Tribunals have wide experience of employment discrimination, and would provide a (relatively) informal and swift means of enforcement, at any rate as compared with the ordinary Courts. As far as enforced subject access is concerned, there is a ready-made remedy already available. Section 56 of the Data
ISA Making Representations ERICA CROMPTON
The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) maintains a list of individuals who are deemed unsuitable to work with children and/or vulnerable adults. These individuals are placed on either the Childrens Barred List, the Adults Barred
Protection Act 1998 makes this a criminal offence: but this provision has never been brought into force. This needs to be remedied urgently. In relation to CRB certificates, the problem is that standard or enhanced certificates will currently include all conviction information held on the PNC, however old or trivial the offence. Take the case of a man in his 40s who applies for a job working with children. Because of the nature of the work, the employer will probably be entitled to an enhanced CRB certificate. If the candidate has, say, a single conviction for a minor shoplifting offence in his mid teens, then this will be disclosed to the prospective employer. There needs to be a filter mechanism, to ensure that the information disclosed on CRB certificates is relevant and proportionate.
The whole area of employment vetting is currently under review. The Protection of Freedoms Bill, currently before Parliament, makes a number of useful changes: for instance, it cuts back on some of the requirements imposed under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 in relation to work with children or vulnerable adults. But the new legislation needs to go further: in particular, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 needs to be brought into the 21st century.
List, or both. Their role is to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults by maintaining these lists, enabling employers to check employees and volunteers who are undertaking roles working with these groups. Certain serious offences result in automatic barring with no right to make representations. Covering the most serious offences against children and vulnerable adults, the list indicates that an individual
poses a risk of harm to children or vulnerable adults in every conceivable case. If your conviction meets the criteria for automatically including you in the Childrens Barred list and/or Adults Barred List then the ISA will write to you to advise you of your inclusion and what you can and cannot do whilst you are included. For advice and information on the ISA and how you can represent yourself click here.
Tim practises in Employment Law and Public Law, and in related aspects of commercial, European and human rights law. He has a particular expertise in Information Law. He is listed as a leading Employment Law barrister in the current editions of both Chambers and Partners Directory and Legal 500. To view his paper click here.
forgiveness Essay jason paul grant
Photograph: Brian Moody
Source: The Forgiveness Project
Features: Margaret Foxley
on the forum unlock members
1) News & Current Affairs: Ex-convict wins a million quid on ITV Members discuss ITV’s ‘Red or Black’ Click here 2) Employment: Companies & disclosure - A window of opportunity shrinks Invictus adds a fresh twist to the topic of employment Click here 3) Education & Training: UCAS help Bryan wants to know whether universities can run CRB checks Click here 4) Ask the Community a Question: Called to give evidence Bryan asks how his criminal record will be treated if he is a witness Click here 5) Support, encouragement & success: Guardian interview with Chris Langham Andy H flags up a success story in the Guardian. Click here
There is a concept that should be thought about. It is free and anyone can find it within them to use it. The idea is forgiveness. An organisation working in the fields of conflict resolution, reconciliation and victim support has been providing exhibitions and speakers around the world, developing an idea of forgiveness. Founded by Marina Cantacuzino, this small organisation aims to open up a dialogue about forgiveness and seeks to promote understanding through awareness, education and inspiration. There are many stories on the website that provide unique, personal insight of individuals overcoming adversity to come to a place of forgiveness. One of the most damaging aspects in relation to the practical implementation of forgiveness is the enormity of emotion and history. Somebody has done something wrong and they need to put that right. The victim in that situation needs to come to a place of comfort, so they can move on in their own lives. Likewise the perpetrator has to understand the pain their actions cause in order for them not to repeat those devastating actions again.
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forgiveness ...continued jason paul grant
I would like to argue that we need to start giving offenders a human face, as if we treat people like human beings then they act accordingly. When we stop making the enemy the enemy, they stop being such. We must learn to forgive and be forgiven for crimes that society has seen fit to punish. Now forgiveness may not come easily and one has to be in the right frame of mind to even attempt to forgive, but the act of forgiveness has helped many people to overcome extreme circumstances and situations. The story of Rosalyn Boyce can be found on the website – a survivor of an attack inside her own home – that was eager to share her idea of forgiveness. She is presently a life coach and counsellor. Rosalyn was brutally attacked in her home by a complete stranger who had broken in and raped her. Luckily for Rosalyn, the perpetrator was tracked down and convicted, receiving three life sentences for serial rape. It may seem that in this case, justice was served. However, no matter what prison sentence the man received, it has in no way enabled Rosalyn to move on in her life. According to Rosalyn, society is not really set up to deal with random situations like the one she found herself in. Life generally has a set of rules to follow if something traumatic happens. For example, if someone dies, then there is a set of procedures that everyone will follow to ensure that sanity is maintained. However, Rosalyn felt that: “What happened to me – being attacked, being raped in my own home, by a complete stranger, a completely random attack. In that situation, obviously my first reaction is to go into complete shock. After a couple of days I started to look around for someone to help me. I went to GP’s, I looked for counselling, and I looked to the police and to my family. I was looking around me going hang on a minute, what do I do now. It took me a couple of
Photograph: Brian Moody
Source: The Forgiveness Project
months and I was prescribed tranquillizers before I suddenly had the realisation, it was a bit of a light bulb moment. I thought hang on a minute, I’ve got to do this one for myself because there was no precedence for this.” It was suggested to Rosalyn that she would have to forgive, in order to be able to move forward with her life. The only problem with forgiving was that Rosalyn felt: “Very stuck, horribly stuck at that point as the perpetrator of the crime has never shown any remorse for it and I know in my heart, as do his other previous victims that if he is let out of prison, he will do it again. So how do you forgive that, and I got really furious, it was all on me and I’ve got to forgive him or I won’t survive. I really struggled with that for a very long time. And then I started to look at forgiveness. I started to look at other people’s different versions of forgiveness and I began to understand that it is a much bigger subject then I have ever even considered.” Forgiveness is one of those words that we may hear all of the time without really understanding the meaning on the word. There is the act of forgiving; state of being forgiven; or the willingness to forgive. Once Rosalyn got a workable notion of what forgiveness meant to her, she was able to break from the perceived ties to the crime. Rosalyn believes that forgive-
Features: Rosalyn Boyce
ness does not have to be fixed. This can allow a flexible approach to develop which meant that one-day she could forgive and the next she would hate all over again. Eventually, this process allowed her to forgive more days than she hated and the freedom she experienced made her work harder on forgiveness. The crucial part for Rosalyn was the idea that she could forgive herself for being a victim in the crime but she did not have to forgive the perpetrator for the crimes that he had committed. One of the great philosophies in forgiveness is the possibility for a victim to forgive an offender without having any relation with the offender. This enables the victim to free his or her self from the internal connection that they have with the offender, which breeds feelings of hate and anger. Maybe it is not my place to judge people who have already been judged. I prefer to have empathy as it reduces the cycle of violence and view these complex human issues as political issues. It is almost like we are people involved in a brutal war, which is never ending. The more criminals we lock up the more fathers, uncles, sons and cousins are taken away from their families, leaving younger relatives to dream about emulating that perceived success. If you have ever been inside of a prison, you will see the pain of people involved in society’s conflict.
forgiveness ...continued jason paul grant
I am certainly not here to use justifications or rationales as to why certain people are trapped into a life of crime, which I do not think is a lifestyle choice. However can we really compensate for carrying the burden of committing crime, nobody wants to carry that burden. Marina Cantacuzino, a former journalist who has set up The Forgiveness Project believes that forgiveness works through the lives and experiences of real people. Marina started to collect stories from around the world in the lead up to the Iraq War, due to all of the violence and anger that she saw through the media. Marina felt that there should be another way of dealing with violence without the use of force. Marina managed to get her initial idea funded and held an exhibition in the OXO gallery in London 2004, which was a huge success. In this way, the Forgiveness Project was born and many people came to her with stories of their own experiences in forgiveness. Marina commented: “It was a huge success, overwhelming and it seemed to tap into this deep public feeling that there is an alternative to violence other than meeting it with more violence. People do believe that ‘an eye for an eye leaves the whole country blind’. The whole thing was hugely complex, in fact I said at our fifth year anniversary celebration last night, the forgiveness project is on the
one hand a beautifully simple organisation and on the other hand, immensely complex.” The Forgiveness Project has managed to present a number of different understandings of forgiveness without claiming to teach anyone what forgiveness actually means. When pressed for a definitive answer, Marina provides this analysis: “Someone who has a world view that life is grey, that’s not black and white, I think can be more forgiving. People that have a very set sort of values, right and wrong, black and white, I think they find it much harder to forgive.” It would be great if all criminals found some repentance or conscience to realise the enormity of the crimes being committed against society but society has to be prepared to forgive these individuals when they return to society. If we only have closed options violence and destruction usually springs to the forefront. Poor people around the country with no political power and progress can only became something through crime and violence. We should acknowledge that most criminals are trying to understand and be understood. Forgiveness is such a problematic term as people can’t agree on one suitable meaning of the word. I believe this work is about conflict prevention and healing in memories, sharing stories in a safe way. Being heard is the greatest gift to give to someone who has been traumatised and the power of listening ensures everyone has the chance to be heard. Soft power
is rising through the political classes and should be used in society as well. If we continue to allow the forgiveness voice to continue to grow, we will be able to deal with the legacy of the past, see humanity even when we are hurting through the power of stories. So the general ideas that forgiveness is about condonement, excuses or a sign of weakness, do not hold up when faced with real life situations. Many people have learned the power of forgiveness and are moving forward with their lives without being trapped in a vicious circle of pain. Forgiveness provides a release from the grip and tie with the perpetrator so that one can amend the ending of the story. Marina challenges the other school of thought on forgiveness, which suggests that forgiveness should only be given if the perpetrator repents their sins. She suggests: “Some people actually say that forgiveness is entirely dependant on repentance like some sort of social contract but that’s not forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about having someone there that you bestow forgiveness on and they’re only worthy of it if they then show remorse. Now that leaves the whole question, what happens when someone is dead and what happens if someone can not show remorse? Some people are so damaged; it is like an illness – they have no empathy. Does that mean there can’t be forgiveness, I don’t think so personally. And my feeling is that forgiveness is difficult, it is costly, it’s painful, it’s a long process, it’s a journey not a destination but it is transformative.” So this transformative process has been giving normal people the chance to overcome some of the most traumatic experiences known. What kind of society do we live in which does not equip individuals with the tools to overcome adversity? Rosalyn feels that: “Our society needs somebody to blame and we are not terribly good at taking full responsibility for our own actions. There is a lot of negativity around our society. For me, I firmly believe in self reliance and that is my choice, also to forgive is my choice, it’s my personal choice to forgive.”
not a patch on snatch
The Record needs you! ERICA CROMPTON
The Record is always looking for contributions from members and other reformed offenders. We’d love to hear your ideas for contributions. All is welcome, from photographs to fiction, hard news to encouraging success stories. Send a brief outline of your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch with you as soon as possible to discuss your idea further.
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Film Review andy h
Written, directed by and starring Ricky Grover, Big Fat Gypsy Gangster follows the fortunes of Bulla, Britain’s most dangerous man, recently released from a 16-year stretch in prison. Reunited with his friends and family, Bulla sets out on a mission to reclaim control of the crime empire he lost to the corrupt detective who put him away. In tow are an American film-maker and his crew, intent on producing a documentary on the first days of freedom of a genuine British gangster. Inevitably they get more than they bargain for and are dragged into Bulla’s chaotic world. The film is dubbed as Snatch meets This Is Spinal Tap but disappointingly ends up not quite being either. None of the excellent cast really put a foot wrong, but ultimately there isn’t enough room in the relentlessly-paced 91 minutes for their characters to fully develop, and the plot-line seems to be somewhat secondary to the fitting in of a range of unnecessary characters. Having said that, the brilliant Peter Capaldi (In The Loop, The Thick Of It) appears, albeit far too briefly, as Bulla’s prison therapist - a character who entertainingly has far more ‘issues’ than his patient. And Laila Morse (Eastenders) is the fantastically foul-mouthed Aunt Queenie – on the verge of losing her haunted pub and in need of not just Bulla’s help, but that of medium and hanger-on Derek Accorah (who plays a caricature of himself ), alongside his
overly-emotional apprentice (comedian Rufus Hound). The comparison with Spinal Tap is based on the role of the American film-maker, the ‘straight-man’ who, whilst victim to the unpredictability of Bulla and his gang, provides a dose of normality to the non-stop mayhem of their world. But the film perhaps suffers from not making enough of the contrast between the observers and the observed present in Rob Reiner’s genre-defining spoof-documentary. The comparisons with Snatch aren’t really justified either, Guy Ritchie’s film does a much better job of dealing humorously with a wide range of ridiculous and extreme characters. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some great laugh-out-loud moments in this film - an extreme wardrobe malfunction affecting Bulla’s nemesis, DCI Mason, providing one of many.
I suspect that BFGG might be a film that improves with repeated viewing. Put simply, there was far too much to absorb in one sitting. But ultimately, ardent fans of the British gangster movie should find much to enjoy in this comedy pastiche of the genre. Just be prepared for a white-knuckle ride if you want to keep up with it. Big Fat Gypsy Gangster (certificate 15) is available to buy on DVD now.
Second Chance The Seven Year Pitch david honeywell
After years in youth custody, prisons and psychiatric hostpitals, aged 32 David started a second, more successful, life that finds him back in court, for very different reasons. After spending several years in prison, committing petty crimes and going nowhere, I finally discovered a way to change it all through writing and education, and although it wasn’t until I was 32 years old – it would pay rewards I’d never expect. I was first convicted at 20, for two attempted robberies, resulting in a 30 month youth custody sentence, then spent the rest of my early adult years with an increasing alcohol problem, drifting from job to job, but also committing relatively petty, mostly impulsive, but occasionally violent crimes (criminal damage, common assault.) My aimless life, also included periods in psychiatric hospitals for bouts of clinical depression and then in July 1995, I was sentenced to a five year prison sentence for wounding. I had massive social and personality issues to address, but I found through writing down my entire thoughts and feelings while sitting in my cell, I could unravel my issues which became an outpouring of emotion. My new found literary skills then led me to start submitting manuscripts to magazines I churned out using an old typewriter my family had brought in. I also developed a passion to improve my education, so I signed up for a Social Sciences foundation course through the Open University. Months later I passed my exams and as a direct result was offered a place at Northumbria University to study criminology. I was released on parole a year later. University life was daunting at first; I didn’t know what the internet was, what the lecturer meant by emailing an attachment, I was barely computer literate and was the only student who was still writing essays with pen and paper.
But as I had learned in prison, perseverance pays off and in 2001, I was graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminology which was the proudest moment of my life. Two years later I then gained a master’s degree in social research methods and at the same time a City & Guilds, adult teaching certificate. This led me to gain some experience teaching criminology to undergraduates for a short time some of who were prison, police officers and future probation officers. I continued shaping my journalism skills writing for the University’s student newspaper in 2004, then a year later my first article for a regional newspaper appeared in the York Press and my journalism career had begun. Since then
I’ve been regularly writing and contributing to the Evening Gazette, Northern Echo, York Press, Sunday Sun and various magazines. And in 2007, my article, Our Heroes about my grandfather’s heroics on the Somme, appeared in a book, Times Past: The Story of York, written by York Press Deputy Editor, Bill Hearld. In 2008, I was commissioned by the local council to write about local business start ups and in 2009, I launched my own newspaper, Coastal View. Most recently, I have been invited to write for the Prison Reform Trust. It would be wrong for me to say that once I’d left prison, I was a completely reformed character. I had new prospects and things to look forward to, but I still
Second Chance had many deep seated issues. It’s been a life long battle to fully address my alcohol problem, but I now have it under control. The passage of time has helped too and being constantly reflective, digging deep into my soul. Education gave me a break through and writing gave me a career. As a person, it’s taken longer, but by having a reason to change and a purpose in life, made it worthwhile. Having a criminal record was also a burden when it came to applying for jobs even after all I’d achieved, but I’d come too far to give up, so I went along the self employed route in the end and it was the best decision I’d ever made in terms of employment. My regrets are that if I’d been encouraged to work hard at education early in life, I may have turned into a very different person, yet considering all the ‘life changing’ experiences I’ve enjoyed through education since, it was writing that became my career. After my degrees, I reignited my passion for writing from all those years ago, when I used to spend hours a day in my cell writing down my thoughts and feelings on paper; I poured my heart out on reams and reams of A4 sheets over the two years I spent inside. And it’s a good feeling that I’ve since been able to use these skills to help others by promoting businesses, raising issues on people’s behalf, doing workshops and mentoring school children and adults. I now work as a full time journalist and writer enjoying my work, but nothing could go full circle more than when I sat in York Crown court in 2007 reporting on a case for the York Press – the very court I myself was a defendant in over 20 years before.
Outside These Walls charlie ryder
A scrapbook kept in prison was the inspiration for Charlie’s rebirth, providing the foundation stone for an incredible journey of art, poetry, theatre and film .
In October 1993 Charlie Ryder took part in a violent protest to shut down the Nazi headquarters in Welling South East London. Two months later he was featured on Crime Monthly, a program which appealed for some of Britain’s most wanted criminals. Arrested the next morning he waited nearly 2 years before he was sent to prison for 16 months. While in prison he received a letter of support from a British Holocaust survivor called Leon Greenman who had
also protested to shut down the Nazi headquarters. Charlie kept this letter in a scrapbook with poetry and artwork to record his time inside. On his release from prison he developed the scrapbook into a one man play which was critically acclaimed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2007.
Then he toured Universities, Prisons and Conferences. In June 2008 Charlie got a job editing an arts magazine for prisoners and ex-prisoners. Some of those involved in contributing to the magazine were then invited to be part of his next project which saw Charlie make another film. That’s two films Charlie has under his belt now – never mind “Second Chances”. We look forward to a hat trick!
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PRESS & MEDIA Relevant news this month ***
• The Guardian - Why ex-offenders should be given a role in cutting youth crime– click here • The Daily Telegraph - Convicts face ban on foreign travel – click here
• Inside Housing - Growth in criminal records checks (article from 2007) – click here • OnTheBox.com - X-Factor Derry’s first (criminal) record prevents him from entering US – click here • The Sun - X Factor: Sian Phillips axed for 10 days spent in prison– click here • People Management - Work programme to be extended to ex-offenders – click here
Editorial • Email email@example.com • Web www.unlock.org.uk • Forum forum.unlock.org.uk • Post 35a High Street, Snodland, Kent, ME6 5AG • Editor Erica Crompton • Designer Chris Bath • The Record’s content may be reproduced providing UNLOCK is referenced as the source • We welcome submissions to The Record sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, however publication is not guaranteed.
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Equality for reformed offenders 10
Published on Sep 30, 2011
Published on Sep 30, 2011
Issue 5 (October 2011) of The Record, the free newsletter for law-abiding people facing discrimination and inequality as a result of a crimi...