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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Website launches to support people with criminal records


Many past offenders are discriminated against because of previous convictions

A new website has been launched to help people with criminal records get their lives back on track.

Launched by Next Chapter Scotland, the organisation estimates one in three men and one in 10 women in Scotland have a criminal record with many facing stigma and discrimination for years after they’ve committed an offence.

The website has been developed with funding from The National Lottery Community Fund.

Next Chapter was founded by Eppie Sprung, a former teacher who in 2012 had an illegal relationship with a 17-year-old pupil which led to her arrest, ended her teaching career and marriage and marked her as a sex offender. 

She said: “As someone with a criminal record, I know, first-hand, how difficult the obstacles can be to get over and how gut-wrenchingly unfair some of the discrimination can feel. 

“Because having a criminal record isn’t considered a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act, it can be really difficult to defend yourself when you face discrimination.

“I want to help people to understand the barriers they’re facing so that they can find a way through them; to rebuild their lives without judgement.”

The new website acts as a one-stop-shop that hopes to help people to understand their rights and point them in the direction of organisations that can support them. 

It sits alongside the charity’s peer-support Facebook group, which aims to bring people together to foster hope and allows them to ask questions and share experiences.

Trustee, Kalpana Ratnam-Roarty, said: “Whether it relates to accessing work, understanding the criminal justice system, money matters, health, housing, family and society, or generally living life, the list of challenges that people can face is lengthy and can affect their lives for many years.

“We’re supporting people who have served their sentences and repaid the harm they’ve caused to others but deserve a second chance to contribute positively to society. Supporting people away from reoffending means less crime and fewer future victims.

“Next Chapter Scotland believes people shouldn’t be judged for their worst choices but, instead should be seen as they are today.

“We have heard from people who have been involved with the criminal justice system about how they have been treated – sometimes many years after they have committed a crime.”

One person told the charity: “The punishment only started with prison. Now 23 years on from release and it hasn’t ended yet.”

Another said: “You’re not classed as a valuable member of society. You’re tainted.”

One person explained: “I’ll be forever known as someone who’s been to prison. No matter how much time passes or what good I do, I’ll always be judged for my past crime.”

Anna Hope (name changed to protect her identity) has been working with Next Chapter Scotland, developing content for the website and explains how the charity is already making a difference after she faced difficulties due to her connection to someone who had committed a crime.

She said: “Three and a half years ago my five children and I had to flee our home, relocating many miles away, due to someone else's crime and subsequent media reporting. We not only lost our home, but we also had to leave our old lives behind, including friends, family and my job.

“Having the chance to come on board as a web content developer for Next Chapter Scotland has provided me with a route out of poverty. I have been given the opportunity to use my lived experience and skills and to earn a monthly income, which has made a huge difference to my self-esteem and mental health, and in turn, to my children’s lives. 

“The role has given me and my children the hand up that we need in order to build a brighter future.

“My financial situation is heading in the right direction, finally, which has helped to restore my dignity (something that had been severely impacted). We no longer need to rely on food banks nor food pantries.”

The website has been welcomed by other criminal justice organisations across Scotland.

Kevin Neary, of Aid & Abet, a charity providing mentoring support for people following release from prison, said: “The website covers so much with many agencies for support with countless links. This is brilliant for us to direct people to.”



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