This article is about being brutally forced to relive the past. Not just once, but constantly for the rest of your life. When all you want to do so desperately is to move on and improve yourself, when you see something mentioning your full name and 'what you did' all those years ago, it brings the haunting memories and the painful emotions flooding back again and again and again. It's traumatizing. Plus, when would-be employers see this information easily available on the web, that potential job offer turns into an instant rejection, your calls are now never returned. Your 'one of them'. That's my life. I do not agree with the current popular practice of throwing information about people's criminal backgrounds with added unnecessary, intimate details (such as their home address) into the very dangerous thing that is the world wide web and then just letting it live there forever, being shared all over the world for all sorts of people to see, speculate over and be changed and tweaked by angry people in malice. This practice is cruel and also very dangerous.
Here is why: 2016 was a fucking awful year for me; I ended up in prison twice, after being turned away whilst desperate by the ever so lovely Hull 'crisis team' who told me 'you seem fine' I cut my arm and wrist so deeply that they needed multiple stitches and I'm now left with permanent scarring for the rest of my life. I took multiple drug overdoses, one resulting in a four day hospital admission on the resus ward. I was still struggling to get over the breakup of my first girlfriend, I was living on my own in a flat next to people who used to leave heroin needles in the street, I couldn't get any form of employment no matter where I turned, I had recently lost a friend to suicide and was grieving. And all this on top of having spent seven years of my life being sexually and mentally abused in NHS mental health services. I was fucking struggling. I felt angry, let down and so alone. I have no contact with my mother, so the only family that I have is my father who suffers from suicidal depression, and often goes out of touch for short periods of time. After everything I had gone through, living on my own with no partner, close friends etc at just twenty one years old was a huge challenge. Everyone needs that certain someone. Everyone. During this time I often felt suicidal and under the instruction of my GP and other people, used to ring the crisis team hoping to get some guidance and support. Sadly, half the time I couldn't get through and was simply placed on hold for stupidly long periods of time, ranging from ten minutes to two hours, and on the occasions that I actually could get through, I got trough to a tied, fed up sounding person who casually told me to stop calling and make a cup of tea. They were fucking useless. On the days that I was especially bad and couldn't get through to them, I rang the police or ambulance to try and get some help that way because i was afraid of cutting too deep and my life being over in a flash. I was clinging on to the last straw of hope I had. You see, during this difficult time I needed empathy, compassion, guidance. I was craving acceptance as everything was falling apart all around me and everyone was rejecting me or dying on me. Nah. No acceptance for me that year.
All I got was vilified, dragged to court, given various criminal convictions and put on a 'criminal behaviour order' for ringing the emergency services when I wasn't in 'genuine enough' need. It seemed as though the Humberside police and CPS wanted me to die. They must have thought I was pretending so hard for some bizarre reason, perhaps getting some practice in for my slot down at broadway maybe. Arseholes. I remember standing in the court room, everything a blurry haze because the police had taken my glasses from me fearing I would smash them and cut myself. I couldn't see much but I could hear everything. I didn't apply for bail due to how suicidal I was feeling so the judge remanded me into custody to keep me safe. I ended up on the mental health wing of prison. Yet, when I returned to the court room for the final hearing a few weeks later, I was put on a criminal behaviour order for ringing the crisis line and emergency services when 'not in genuine enough need', despite the prison recognizing how unwell I was. Eh? Bizarre. It seems that no services talk to each other anymore. Fast forward a few days, I remember waking up one day, making myself a cup of coffee and then checking my messeges on my phone as per usual. I had so many. Over fifty. Most of them abusive, from people telling me that I was evil and nasty for what I had done and that they had seen me on the front page of the Hull Daily Mail and The Sun. What the hell were they talking about? I checked online. What I came across was deeply, deeply disturbing and still upsets me to this day that a person would lie about a suicidal young woman the way that Humberside police managed to get away with doing. The headline from The Sun was this:
'FAKE 999 CALLS- YOUNG WOMAN, 21, BOMBARDED EMERGENCY SERVICES WITH CALLS AND USED THEM AS A PERSONAL TAXI SERVICE.' I froze in disbelief. How dare they. I felt totally betrayed. They knew full damn well the extent of my mental health issues and how much I was suffering. Hell, half of them have sat with me, whist I've been in my pjamas, and talked me out of cutting my own fucking throat. But, despite this, they chose to print a load of lies. How evil. I read on:
'Michelle who faked seizures to fool paramedics, has been banned from making calls after putting "lives in danger".' Was the main thing that stood out to me. Absolute rubbish. Sensationalist lies created to sell papers, earn income. Nothing more, nothing less.
The version in the Hull Daily Mail was even more alarming. They had chosen to print my age and my street address. This immediately put me at risk. How low for them to print such intimate details about someone suffering, with diagnosed mental health issues? Surely they had broken a law somewhere. I remember needing to get some toilet roll that day, but, even though I lived just a few streets away from the shop, feeling the absolute need to wait until late that night before I went. I felt I needed to wait for my own safety. I feared people would recognize me in the street and come up to me and attack me. I felt deep down inside, that the authorities were trying to kill me and to this day I still believe it. I picked up the toilet roll and decided to get a copy of the lie riddled paper myself. I still have it in a box somewhere. The next day, whilst out, a mother walking with her little toddler said 'its that girl' about me whilst walking past me crossing the road. The woman looked me in the eyes as she said it. My life was falling apart even more. For simply wanting help. I lost various friends around me, and on Facebook lost even more. Nothing printed about me was true though I pleaded.
I was left with no mental health support with my diagnosed issues and now more on my criminal record to feel the effects of. After this, I couldn't stay in Hull much longer and I no longer view the place as my hometown. The place reminds me of what the police did to me. I decided to move away to Leeds for a fresh start and change my name to what it is today. I checked online a few weeks ago, and the article about me is still easily available on google for all to see. If I hadn't have changed my name, my job prospects would be non existent for the rest of my life which is so cruel. I've asked Google to remove the post because that conviction is now spent, to no use. This shouldn't be the case. First of all, police shouldn't lie to the papers. Second, printing a vulnerable young woman's street address in the paper should be very much illegal. Third, the police should closely monitor what information is available about people's convictions online and once spent, get them removed. Having people's past record available forever on the internet serves no purpose apart from making it even harder for the individuals to actually 'rehabilitate' in the community (god I hate that word) and move on. It makes no sense. In one breath, the courts and police are saying that they really want to help people move on and stop offending, yet in the other breath, they are purposefully pumping hateful, lie riddled jargon into the web. Doesn't make sense does it?
Deliberately sensationalized tales are still allover the online world about me, and probably will be for the rest of my life. The deep slash wounds have turned into scars that are still very clearly visible. People can't see those barely healed scars, but what they do see is my full previous address, a mugshot of me looking like something from hellraiser because I hadn't slept, and highly sensationalist language, inferring that I was pretending to have a mental health issue and I was 'wasting everyone's time'. Every time someone's asks about it, I have to explain everything right from the very beginning. For my sanity, and for fairness, it should be removed. A final message to any police officers, journalists or frequent court room paparazzi; I beg you to please refrain from publishing anything fictitious, sensationalized or hateful about someone. Please don't publish people's addresses, it puts them in danger. Please think about if it's whole heatedly necessary to publish something that millions of people are going to see. Is it so, so serious? Are the public at risk of getting shot tomorow? I have no issue with people printing details about serial murders, child killers etc.Or is it just a minor shop theft equating to £3.79 from the shop and they are becoming a nuisance in your eyes so want to get at them another way, get the public to hate them? I have no issue with people printing details about serial murders, child killers etc. Please be honest with yourself. Take a moment. This is wrong. The only way to aid 'rehabiliation' is to try and have empathy for individuals. Listen to them and find out what helps them. Turning their only friends and family against them is not only punitive but its morally disgusting. Your skin would crawl if someone did that to your children or loved one. So please don't it. I had to completely start again with my life with a new city, new name, new everything to escape from my past. People shouldn't have to do this. Please share if you agree that spent convictions should be removed from the internet and monitored.
Thanks for reading. , Michelle.
Some useful information about the reporting of spent convictions can be found at http://hub.unlock.org.uk/knowledgebase/reporting-criminal-records-media/
The reporting of ‘spent’ criminal convictions
What are the rules on reporting spent convictions?
You are not obliged to disclose a spent conviction, and you should not be prejudiced as a result of one. This means that in law, for a media organisation to report your spent conviction amounts to an untruth, meaning that they are open to accusations of defamation.
It is not a criminal offence to report a spent conviction, so the ROA does not impose a criminal penalty on journalists or media organisations who do so. As a result of the ROA, technically, anybody reading about the spent conviction shouldn’t use that information in a way that disadvantages you in any way. Of course, this is difficult to prove, and even if you could prove it, there is little you can do.
What can I do if the media reports my spent conviction?
If details of your spent record are reported in the media, you could try contacting the organisation/publication and ask them to remove reference to it as it has now been ‘wiped out by law’ – whilst this term isn’t technically accurate, for the purposes of ‘reporting’, it should have the desired effect.
If your conviction is recorded online, you will need to ask the organisation on whose website it appears both to remove it and to advise Google that any cached references need to be removed.