Mike Riley was a firefighter, a council official and even a school governor.
Yet no employer wants to give him a job.
Rumours about an incident which saw him jailed mean he loses those jobs he gets.
Mike’s most recent job lasted days. His boss heard rumours that he held his family at gunpoint and he was let go. Although exaggerated, there is a little truth there about an incident of which Mike is deeply ashamed.
In 2007, Mike became grief-stricken after his sick sister died of a stroke. He sought solace in vodka on Easter weekend. As he drank, he got angrier and asked his wife and children to leave.
When police arrived, Mike was upstairs with his air rifle. He remembers little but accepts he pointed it at them. That was a siege but no one was held hostage. As soon as he began to sober up, Mike handed himself in.
Without applying for bail, he pled guilty, was remanded and was later sentenced to two years.
“Porterfield Prison in Inverness was an easy life. I got the reception pass man job which is for trusted prisoners. I could go to the gym and even make phone calls. It was my family that suffered at home.”
He became a prison listener, trained by the Samaritans to help prisoners with suicidal thoughts.
There were rumours in Porterfield he was a serious gunman. Mike, who was released after a year, said: “I’ve committed no crimes except misdemeanours as a teenager.”
Many seem willing to forgive and forget until he goes for a job. Then whispers start.
“It’s always the rumours that are believed.”
The charges were assault on the officers for pointing the weapon and a breach of the Firearms Act 1968.
“There was no firearm. Not that that makes it any better, but people misquote what I did. I’ve done my time and, although I’m unemployed, I don’t claim benefits. I’m putting my cards on the table so people will judge me with my side of the story not on whispers with embellishments.”
A retained firefighter for 12 years, Mike was also a governor and then chairman of the governing body at Swan Valley Community School in Swanscombe, Kent. He also worked as a council PFI liaison officer.
“I would like someone to give me the chance and judge me on my merits.”
Now living in Breasclete, Mike insisted he has not touched alcohol since that fateful night.
Legally, he doesn’t have to declare his conviction, as the jail term was less than 30 months and more than four years ago. But he wants to set the record straight.
He says he will take any job paying a living wage - even sweeping the streets.
“I want to feel self-worth. I want to get up and do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”