Old Bailey Solicitors

Managing Your Reputation After a Conviction

This article is written on the assumption that you’ve never been in trouble with the law before.  You have an entirely clean criminal slate and you never expected to be in a position where that might change.  But now, your unblemished record is at risk.  You got involved in an incident where you lost your renowned sense of composure.  You said some things you shouldn’t have to a complete stranger or your verbal argument with a loved one boiled over into something slightly more.  Maybe you carried out a risky overtake or you misjudged the speed of an oncoming vehicle when pulling out from a junction.  Or, perhaps you haven’t done anything wrong at all but someone, for whatever reason, has made a false allegation against you.  You know you’re in the right but the only independent witness has taken sides with your accuser and now the odds are stacked against you.  You might be starting to look at the worst-case scenario and, if so, you’re considering what the consequences of a criminal conviction might be for your future.

The sentence of the court

For particularly serious offences, the primary concern might relate to the sentence that you will face at the hands of the court.  A period of imprisonment is usually the average person’s worst nightmare.  The “clang of the prison gates” etc sending a chill down the spine.  Stepping down from that outcome, a Community Penalty may involve a less onerous but still impactful restriction of your liberty.  You may have to attend numerous appointments with a Probation Officer or an offence-focused group work programme.  You may have to undertake hours of unpaid work, which might take up your Sundays for the best part of the next year.  Or, if your offence is slightly less serious, you might have to pay a financial penalty and court costs – you’ll be hit in the pocket.   Where relevant, you might be disqualified from driving and have to take a re-test.  You might become the subject of a Court Order, preventing you from contacting the alleged victim or from attending certain locations.

The other consequences of a conviction

In the vast majority of cases, however, when it comes to considering the potential consequences of a criminal conviction, the sentence of the court is only half the story.  The list of concerns or impacts will differ from case to case and circumstance to circumstance.  So let’s consider the following simply as a starting point:

  • Job applications / career development – you are likely to have to disclose any recent criminal convictions as part of the application process, until such time as it becomes “spent” under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Even then, certain categories of employer will be able to obtain information about your convictions for much longer periods, possibly forever.
  • Volunteering – if you are involved in running a youth sports team or you help out at events organised by your local church or other community organisation, it is likely that a DBS certificate will be required (see below) and your conviction will become disclosable.
  • Education – the nature and circumstances of your conviction may prohibit your acceptance by certain education establishments.
  • Travel – some countries apply very strict immigration rules to all visitors. A recent conviction for almost anything is likely to cause you difficulties in traveling to the USA, for example.  Migrating on a more permanent basis may prove to be even more difficult.
  • Adoption – starting a family by way of fostering or adoption could be made significantly more difficult with a conviction on your record.
  • Insurance – applications for home or motor insurance cover generally involve disclosure of recent convictions. Depending on the nature of the offence involved, there will be an increased risk that policies will be refused or that premiums will be significantly higher.
  • Running for public office – you would expect security and record checks to delve into a prospective candidate’s offending history. As such, any one-off misjudgement, mistake, loss of control or momentary act of weakness may act as a bar to any aspirations to run for office.
  • Jury duty – this might be one of life’s experiences that you’d be content to swerve in any event but a conviction will act as a bar to your involvement for a period of time.

These consequences are largely the result of our centralised disclosure system, which allows for criminal records to be checked and communicated via the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS).  But there may well be other, less formal concerns regarding the protection of your reputation – and these will relate to adverse publicity, either at the hands of the mainstream media (such as online news sources) and social media (where gossip is king and good character exists to be assassinated).

The impact of adverse publicity

Freedom of the press dictates that local and online media can print the facts of your conviction, including your name, address and often all the grizzly details of the case.  In particularly newsworthy cases, the story might be accompanied by a photo, perhaps taken of you as you walk into or out of the court building.  Hiding your head under a blanket or your coat may help to keep your face away from the story but it may also serve to exacerbate the sense of shame and ridicule.  There is no easy answer to that conundrum.

The importance of legal advice and representation

So there is a lot to think about here and, in truth, you may find that you’re simply not able to control any of it, even less so alone.  You will need advice, at an early stage in the case, so you are aware of the potential outcomes and how best to steer your way through them with the least amount of damage.

You will require representation, to ensure that the right things are said and the unhelpful things are jettisoned.  It is entirely possible that you will find the experience daunting, at least, and harrowing, at worst.  Your mental health may be also affected.  You may find that you’re unable to see the wood for the trees.  What you think is relevant and helpful might not be, and vice versa.

This is why selecting the right legal representation is so important

If you’re not guilty of the allegation you face, the starting point will always be to plead not guilty and to take the case to trial.  Where you are guilty and the evidence against you is overwhelming, it is likely to make sense to enter a guilty plea and to reduce the likely sentence.  So much is obvious.  But might there be a third way?  Might you have done one thing wrong but not all the things that are being levelled at you?  Might you have committed a less serious offence to the one under consideration?  Might an early admission to one thing avoid a prosecution for that other more serious thing?  Might an out of court disposal be considered.  If not, why not?  Might some sensibly worded representations in the right ear help to achieve that lesser outcome?

Every case is different.  People bring their particular circumstances into play and the options, objectives and potential outcomes will differ as a result.  But experience remains vital.  Knowing how certain situations are likely to develop, because that is how they usually develop, or understanding how certain individuals or organisations are likely to react, because that is how they usually react, is key to guiding clients through the process.  It is important to know when it is safe to go on the offensive and knowing when acceptance is the best way to limit the damage.  This is where the experience and expertise of the tactful, experienced and astute criminal defence lawyer comes into play.

Old Bailey Solicitors are the considered choice

The consequences of a criminal conviction are numerous, widespread and potentially life-changing.  The team at Old Bailey Solicitors are aware of these factors and their relevance to each and every one of our clients.  We apply our experience and tactical know-how for the benefit of those clients. Which is why we are the considered choice for clients facing false allegations, for those with no experience of the criminal justice system, for those who may want to set their actions in context, to assert the truth and for those who have an eye on their future. Please contact our specialist team to discuss your own individual situation.

Rod Hayler Old Bailey Solicitors

Rod Hayler

Solicitor - Managing Director

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