The County You Live, Work And Play
Criminal Conviction Stops Course
A keen student who has been barred from finishing her course because of her criminal record has started a petition to allow her to get on with her education .
Kim Kelly, who was convicted for racial assault in 2005 , said: “I did the crimes but I paid for them. I’ve done everything in my power to turn my life around. Nobody should be defined by their past.”
The 30-year-old, who has stopped drinking, fighting, taking pills and selling drugs , gave up a full-time job as a community worker to start her course in social care, which she hopes will lead to a degree. Her goal is to get a job working with young people and be a great role model for her six-year-old son .
To pass the first year of her HND at South Lanarkshire College, she has to complete a work placement. Kelly found a spot with ex-offenders’ theatre group Street Cones and has the all-clear from Disclosure Scotland to work with children and adults.
But when her PVG (protecting vulnerable groups) form came back from Disclosure Scotland, it listed her previous offences – and now the college are refusing to let her finish the placement that is a crucial part of the course.
Kim explained: “They have said I can do a voluntary placement but can’t hand in work. If I can’t hand it in, I will fail that unit, so I won’t graduate and can’t go on to university.”
The news came out of the blue last week.
Kim said: “I was sitting in a lecture learning about anti-discriminatory practise, engagement, inclusion and equality. Then I was pulled out of my class. They told me the college could not risk putting me on placement.
“I asked, ‘What risk?’ I’m not a risk.”
She has not met the members of staff who made the decision. She was promised a meeting with the college principal on Friday but it has yet to happen.
Kim was 17 at the time of the racial assault. Her family had broken up, she’d been sofa surfing since she was 15 and was living in a homeless hostel in Glasgow’s southside. The CID picked her up most weekends. Her memories of the day are hazy.
She recalled: “There was an Old Firm game. I was up all the night before taking eccies. Then I was drinking all day. It was just wild.”
When she woke up in custody the next day, police showed her CCTV footage. She admitted: “I got in a fight in an Indian restaurant. I was going mental, smashing mirrors.
“I deeply regret it, that wasn’t me. I’d been in fights before but I wasn’t a racist.
“I know now it’s a toxic crime – it’s probably one of the worst things you can get charged with.
“I never understood the impact that it would have on other people. I was a wee lassie. The only thing I was thinking about was myself back then.”
That was in 2002. She was on probation, then finally appeared in court in 2005. Kim was charged, paid her fine and thought that was it.
Slowly, she put her life together.
She was studying hairdressing in 2009 when she discovered she was pregnant. And while she returned to classes when her son Carson was six weeks old, she wanted to spend more time with him.
Two years later, she was back studying social care when a family bereavement hit her hard.
Then a toxic relationship took its toll. In 2012, she was charged with selling drugs.
Her probation officer helped her to get back on track – and stay there.
She now lives in East Kilbride and football-daft Carson is in primary three.
Far from being a racist, Kim goes on demonstrations to welcome refugees and counts people from all ethnic backgrounds as friends.
As a single parent and a mature student, she is struggling to pay the bills. But she loves her course.
Kim said: “I’m getting by. It’s a struggle compared to when I was working but this is the bigger picture for me. I could have stayed on benefits, I could have stayed in my bed – but that’s not what I wanted for my wee boy.