It could be extremely difficult to remove criminal convictions from Google. The main reason for this is that Google often takes the view that there is an ongoing public interest in people finding out about a persons' past criminal conviction, particularity if the applicant is a professional person.
There is no set of rules that says what criminal convictions can be removed from Google with a right to be forgotten request. The success of an application to remove a criminal record from Google would often depend on the nature of the criminal record and the time that has lapsed since the conviction. It is possible to remove a criminal record from Google where the criminal conviction has become spent but this is not necessary and even if the conviction is not spent, or even if it can never be spent, it may still be possible to have it removed from Google searches.
There are different periods of time before a criminal conviction becomes spent, which depends on the age of the offender and the sentence they received. The rehabilitation of offenders period is set out in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Even if your criminal record falls outside the list of rehabilitation periods, you may still be able to apply to remove your criminal record from Google.
The people who make the decision whether to remove a conviction from Google are Google content moderators, or assessors. The problem for many individuals who want to remove a criminal record from Google is that Google content moderators are human beings and as such they often make their own judgment as to whether links to an individual’s criminal record should be delisted from search results. Their judgment is often based on what they consider as the public interest rather than the law.
Google may consider that it is in the public interest to bring your criminal conviction up in search results. The law gives individuals an opportunity to move on with their lives and it considers that public interest was sufficiently served after they stood trial and served their sentence. After that, the law says that it is no longer in the interest of the public at large to be aware of the individual’s criminal record and that search engines, including Google, should remove references to the criminal record search results. This law applies equally to those individuals who have committed dishonesty offences, violent offences or even sex offences.
Too often, Google’s content moderators refuse to remove a criminal conviction reference from search results because they don’t appear to like the nature of the offence. It is often easier to remove a criminal record reference in relation to a serious dishonesty offence, such as fraud, for which the offender received a sentence of three and a half years in prison, than to remove a criminal record reference in relation to a minor sex offence, such as indecent exposure, for which the offender received a conditional discharge.
There is no requirement for a criminal conviction to be spent before it can be removed from Google searches. If the criminal conviction is a spent conviction, it would make it easier to argue the case for delisting the newspaper articles that mention the criminal conviction from Google searches. However, it is not a legal regiment and there are cases where a criminal record is not yet spent or actually, can never be spent, where Google had to agree to delist links to news articles about the conviction. The main test for removing links to articles about a criminal conviction from Google is a public interest test and whether a criminal conviction is spent.
It is therefore important that when you apply to remove a criminal record from Google or from other search engines you familiarise yourself with your legal rights and that even if your criminal record might be unpleasant, your persistence with your request to remove the criminal record from Google should eventually succeed.
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