I received a police caution a year ago for travelling on a train without a valid ticket. Stupidly I tried to talk myself out of the situation, thinking I was going to get fined. I had never got on the wrong side of the law previously, nor have I since. My experience of the police and the legal system was, to say the least – naive. I was scared, confused and just wanted to get out of the situation. Through my own naivety, and a Police Officer who pushed me into accepting the caution quickly, I now have a criminal record. I was never told the implications of receiving the caution and that it would remain on my record for 100 years!
Having since learned that a caution is not simply just a formal 'ticking off'. It can affect my ability to get certain jobs, to travel and undermines my ability to be viewed as a 'good citizen' for the rest of my life. There is nothing I can do to rectify that.
I am hard-working, have a first-class degree, a good job – yet due to this one misdemeanour I will always have a black-mark against me.
This is deeply wrong. In my experience the caution has served its intended purpose. However, the lasting effect of it has been devastating for me. It has affected my self-confidence, my career and life ambitions. I feel stigmatised and marginalised, and all for one stupid mistake for the sake of a few quid.
While I deeply regret what I did, I feel the lasting effects of cautions remaining on police records for life a wholly inappropriate punishment for minor offences such as mine. I feel robbed of my rights and disillusioned with the justice system.
People with cautions for minor offences should have a completely clean record after 2-3 years so that they have a chance to get on with their lives.
If motoring offences, many of which are arguably much more serious than my own can be dealt with by points on your licence, then we desperately need some greater equality in the handling of other offences.