We’ve moved on, why can’t the system?

Louise’s story

I’m a happily married mum of 8 and I can’t even visit the elderly because of a caution I received for defending my children.

Years ago, I was continuously harassed by teenagers outside my home. One day, they smashed my window, knowing I had toddlers inside. In the moment, I got angry, grabbed a tennis racket and smacked one of the teenagers on the bum as she ran away. I shouted after them, calling them idiots and saying they could have really hurt my children.

The teenagers reported me to the police and lied about what had happened. I was arrested for grievous bodily harm. I told the officers what had really happened, thinking justice would prevail. In the end, I was given a caution for actual bodily harm. Nothing happened to the teenagers.

Not long after, I got a great opportunity to be head chef at a school. They reached out to me personally about the role, and I was really excited by it. But because I would be cooking on school premises, they needed to conduct a detailed criminal record check.

When the caution showed up on the check, the school said they couldn’t go ahead. They knew me and my family, but they said they just couldn’t take the risk.

Now I’m a homemaker looking after my children. I recently wanted to volunteer to visit the elderly with a charity. I thought I could brighten their day a bit by visiting with my toddler. But volunteering requires an enhanced DBS check. Because the offence was actual bodily harm, my caution will show up on enhanced checks forever.

It’s now been more than 20 years since the incident. The teenager involved even reached out to me on Facebook to apologise for everything. She’s grown up now and feels sorry for her actions. We talked it out and agreed that there were no hard feelings. We’ve moved on. 

But the system hasn’t. It’s keeping me trapped in that moment and holding me back from living my life. I am sharing my story because I want the system to change. Cautions shouldn’t be a life sentence. They shouldn’t prevent people from getting jobs or volunteering in their community.

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