How to remove an old criminal conviction news story from Google
What happens if there are newspaper articles about a previous conviction which happened a few years earlier and how can you have the news reports about the criminal conviction removed from Google searches. An important question is whether there is public interest in having your conviction being shown to internet users.
It seems there is no time limit for how long Google can show internet users links to articles about a criminal conviction, regardless of what the conviction was about or how long ago it was received.
When our client Tom has put his name into Google, to his distress he was presented with various articles and information which concerned a conviction in his past for assaulting a police officer nearly 4 years earlier. Tom panicked because he did not anticipate after such a long time, anyone would be interested in his minor criminal conviction, for which he received a community service order.
Tom was wondering how several years later, after his conviction and after he had completed his sentence, he was still being haunted by a mistake he made in the past. The worry about the content being online for anyone to access was daunting because not only had he built a new life and good reputation for himself, he also had a successful business now with good customers and the last thing he needed was to be portrayed as a violent man who had no regard to the law. The circumstances of his conviction were unique to his case and did not represent the type of person he was back then and certainly not the type of person he was now.
Tom was worried about his young children and whether they might be refused entry to a particular private school, which he worked so hard for them to be able to afford. He also realised why on a number of occasions he was refused bank loans and credits even though his financial standing was excellent. Tom was therefore adamant that we help him to clear his name for good, by removing all existing references to his previous criminal record.
Fortunately, the law recognises that everybody has a past, and sometimes people are not proud of that past due to having made certain choices which at the time or in the heat of the moment seemed to make sense, but are now facing the consequences for those choices. Therefore, provided we can show that the content which related to the previous conviction was sufficiently outdated, excessive or irrelevant, we should be able to facilitate the removal of the news articles about the criminal conviction from internet search results. There would be some very limited circumstances where reports of a previous conviction can be argued to be in the public interest even years after the criminal conviction was received. This, however, is unlikely to apply to minor criminal convictions and to most criminal convictions which do not involve dishonesty.
What to do if you have changed as a person but the news articles about your old conviction are still ruining your life
What is important, is the opportunity that the legal system provides for those convicted of criminal offences to be rehabilitated and for an individual to make up for his mistakes in a strive to only grow and put his past behind him. Thus, where someone has made these changes to his character, it would be unfair for that person to be burdened with the knowledge that information about his past should continue to exist on the internet. In most cases there is no public interest here or a need to having information about someone minor criminal conviction being available to the public at large.
By way of example, our client Tom has been able to move on with his life, but has often struggled financially and was unsuccessful when applying for loans, since when his name was searched on Google, his conviction and what he did a few years ago showed up clearly in many articles. Tom was therefore alarmed at the risk his career and furthermore his family are, due to the existence of these articles on the internet.
Do you need a lawyer for a right to be forgotten newspaper articles of criminal conviction application
You do not need a lawyer to make a right to be forgotten application. Although it is arguable that a person is able to easily put an application forward to Google in the same way as a Lawyer would, it is important to stress a few factors. Firstly, Google is a massive search engine, receiving a significant quantity of applications of a similar nature. For your right to be forgotten application to be successful it must be submitted accurately and have legal reasons which would override Google presumption that it shall not be removed from its internet searches. Your first attempt at the right to be forgotten application is therefore important because it sets out the correct basis for your removal request.
If you go it alone, you could risk the opportunity to eradicate your name from the internet which is the purpose of your request in the first place. Furthermore, placing trust in a solicitor who is specialised in the specific area should give you a peace of mind that your case is being dealt with in a thorough manner, which will save you time and stress and could possibly make the difference between having to leave with the offending news articles forevermore and having a peaceful existence without them.
Too many requests under the right to be forgotten are defective because they cite the wrong law. Often applications cite defamation as opposed to privacy or data protection law. In the case of Tom, he was advised to apply to Google under the right to be forgotten on the basis of General Data Protection Regulation, the Data Protection Act and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
The solicitor’s request explained why it was not in the public interest for these news articles which referred to Tom’s previous criminal conviction for them to be accessed to though Google search results. If, for whatever reason, his right to be forgotten application did not succeed, the solicitor would have known that she had solid grounds to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office who can order Google to remove the content regardless of its initial refusal to do so. An alternative route to appeal would have been to serve a GDPR Notice on Google, which would have been consistent with the original right to be forgotten application.
Thankfully for Tom, the solicitors application for a right to be forgotten to Google, to remove all references and links to the newspaper articles about his previously conviction, was successful and within less than two weeks from the right to be forgotten application, all the links had been removed from Google search results.