Case study on removing a conviction from the internet
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How to remove an old conviction from the internet
With a right to be forgotten, you can often have articles completely deleted from the source and not just from Google searches.
Brian (not his real name) was convicted of a crime involving minor benefit fraud 10 years ago and has since turned his life around. He has been working hard to rebuild his life and his reputation, but the internet continues to haunt him. Every time he applies for a job or tries to date someone new, the first thing they do is a Google search, and the first thing that comes up is an article about his conviction. He came to us seeking help in getting the article removed from the internet. We did some research and found that the reports about his conviction were inaccurate and out of date The main report about his criminal conviction was posted on a blogging platform, called Blogger, which is owned by Google.
Whilst a criminal conviction of someone can be posted on the internet lawfully, in the case of Brian, there was other data, such as his financial circumstances, a claim that he was claiming state benefits and a report about his mental health at the time of the conviction, was also posted with the original report on the blog site. The blog author had written his blog shaming Brian for having had money problems, that he had claimed state benefits and that he was suffering from mental illness. Much of this information was of private nature according to GDPR and in any event, part of it was untrue and out of date.
It is a question that many people have asked themselves, "is it lawful to post online about someone's health?". The answer to this question is not as simple as a yes or no. There are many factors to consider when making the decision to post online about someone's health.
The first factor to consider is the person's privacy. If the person has not given you permission to post about their health, then it is not lawful. Another factor to consider is whether or not the person is a public figure. If the person is a public figure, then it is more likely that they have put their health information out there for the public to see.
However, if the person is not a public figure, then you should consider that their right to private life would prohibit you from posting information about their physical or mental health.
In the blog post about Brian, the author had posted the allegation that Brian, at the time of committing the offence, suffered from mental health issues. Brian recalled that he deliberately chose to not place this information before the court because he did not want it to become public. Whilst researching the internet, we found an old press release by the local authority which they put out for journalist following the successful prosecution of Brian, where they made a reference to Brian’s mental health.
It appeared that this press release formed the basis of the blog post. Brian was deeply disturbed by the nature of the post and the false information it included, which was visible to the general public. This exacerbated Brian’s mental health issues, causing him particularly bad anxiety at the thought of people knowing his medical information. He became suicidal and tried to contact his council regarding their leak of information, although they had denied sharing it with the blog author. This left Brian feeling more isolated as he did not know who to turn to.
Mental illness is a very real and sensitive issue for many people. When someone with mental illness sees a negative post about themselves online, it can trigger a lot of negative emotions. They might feel worthless like their life isn't worth living.
They might feel like they're not good enough and that everyone hates them. These feelings can lead to self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and even suicide. It's important to remember that if you see something negative online about someone with mental illness, that person is likely already feeling vulnerable and sensitive. Brian was deeply disturbed by the nature of the blog post, which was visible to the general public.
This exacerbated Brian’s mental health issues. Brian had been struggling with mental health issues for some time, and the blog post was a trigger for him. He was so disturbed by it that he began to have suicidal thoughts. Brian’s mental health issues were exacerbated by the blog post, and he began to spiral into a deep depression.
He was having difficulty functioning and was struggling to get out of bed each day. Brian’s friends and family were worried about him and they tried to get him to seek help, but it was only later that they encouraged him to seek legal advice to try and resolve the issue that was causing so much distress to him.
Yes. You can remove blog posts from the internet even if they concern your criminal conviction. Public interest must always be considered whenever someone makes a request to have posts about their criminal conviction removed from the internet. At the same time, consideration should also be given to the individual’s unique circumstances and to the question of whether the criminal convictions are posted by a blogger or by a newspaper.
In the case of Brian, he felt as if he was constantly being invaded as the blog post about his criminal conviction was receiving more viewers each day, preventing him from moving on from the lowest point of his life. The post had been up for years, but the number of viewers it was receiving recently was unprecedented. He knew that it was only a matter of time before someone else he knew saw it and he was humiliated all over again.
The worst part was that he thought that he couldn't even take it down - it was a public record and there was nothing he could do to remove it. He felt trapped and helpless as he watched the view count go up, feeling like his life was on display for the world to see. However, Brian was wrong on this occasion. His case, even though appeared as straightforward to him and to others, was in fact much more complex and this very complexity made our lawyers believe that they could help Brian in having the blog post about his criminal conviction removed from the internet altogether.
Many people have their personal data breached as a result of unauthorised disclosure by online articles and blogs under GDPR. This includes breach of the requirement that personal data must be processed fairly and transparently in regard to the data subject, and must be acquired and processed for lawful purposes, be correct, and kept up to date as needed. In many cases, people who are convicted of crimes have their information posted on the internet for everyone to see.
However, often times, this information does not comply with the requirements set forth by the courts and could give grounds for the article to be removed from the internet. In some cases, this information could be used to harass or intimidate the person who was convicted, which is why it is so important that it is accurate and up-to-date.
When Brian came to us seeking advice on removing the reports about his old criminal conviction from the internet, he was very stressed and embarrassed about the situation, particularly since it had originated with a report on his conviction. He wanted to have the blog post removed as he felt that it was tarnishing his reputation with false allegations of claiming state benefits and disclosure of his mental health issues.
He had already written to the author of the blog himself, to which he received a very rude response, stating that it was in the public interest to know about Brian’s terrible character. Our lawyers devised a strategy to assist him in removing the defamatory blogs from the internet. They advised him that not only the blog author could be held liable for breaching his data and privacy, but the local authority who posted the press release with references to Brian's mental health issues and Google themselves, who own the blogging platform, all could also be held liable.
Our solicitors wrote to the blog author, with a strongly worded GDPR Notice which also included threats of legal action against him under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. They also wrote to the local authority requesting that the press release be removed immediately from the internet and advising them of a potential legal action for breaching Brian’s rights under GDPR and his right to private life over a prolonged period of nearly 10 years.
Following on from our letters to the blog author and the local authority they both fully cooperated. We then applied to Google to ensure that any traces of those pages were removed from future internet searches. Brian was extremely relieved having received his life back and the opportunity to move on with his life.
While Brian’s case was challenging, we had previous experiences dealing with news reports of this nature where the authors had been bloggers rather than mainstream newspapers. We always try to find a different and unique angle to cases involving the removal of criminal convictions from the internet.
Sometimes the complexity of a case is also its strength. When people with mental illness see negative posts about themselves online, it can be really harmful. It can make them feel like they are not worth anything and that people are just making fun of them.
This can lead to them feeling even more isolated and alone. Additionally, it can make them more likely to engage in self-harm or even suicide. If you see someone with mental illness being attacked online, please reach out to them and let them know that they are not alone.
Case studies are based on true cases where names, dates and circumstances have often been amended to protect the identity of those involved.