I was born in Hackney, East London. At the age of 6 my parents separated and my brother and I were left with my father. My father worked full-time on night shifts and he let his new girlfriend look after us. She didn’t like us very much and we were kept in a room together until I was 10 years old when my mother managed to win custody of us through the courts. My brother and I then moved in with my mum in Wolverhampton.
As soon as I got to Wolverhampton I rebelled. I started by fighting my way to the top at school physically and once there I started organising fights with other schools. I found that I had a taste for violence and at the age of 14 I was taken to court. The judge said that I was unruly, without discipline, and from a broken home. He said that because my mother worked full-time there was no one to control me whilst I was at home. I was to be taken into a care home in Birmingham until I was 18 years old.
Within an hour of arriving at the home I jumped out the window and made my way back to Wolverhampton. I was now on the run, living on the streets, and I had to find money to survive. I quickly realised that there was money to be made in drugs and crime. I started stealing cars and driving up and down the country breaking into chemists to obtain drugs such as amphetamines (speed) and opiates (heroin & morphine). We would then go to different night clubs to sell the drugs. Very soon I started to use the drugs myself. I would get caught from time to time but would immediately escape from whatever care home they put me in. I was then put in a detention centre which was considered at the time to be severe, sort, sharp stick imprisonment. I came out and carried on where I left off. I got caught again and this time I was sent to Borstal which was a young person’s prison. On release I went straight back to crime and was sent back to Borstal.
On my release I was 18 years old and this time I got involved with gangs and serious violence as well as dealing drugs. I was also a football hooligan as I enjoyed the violence. Eventually I was sent to a youth prison but they decided that I was too violent so I was transferred to an adult prison. I was 19 years old.
In prison I met up with a man from Birmingham who came from a notorious family who were well known for dealing drugs. Upon my release from prison I went to work for him and soon found myself dealing in very large quantities of heroin and cocaine. Eventually this ended with many people being given hefty prison sentences but somehow I managed to avoid capture. I was now left with a massive drug habit and a taste for easy money. I found that the solution to this problem was armed robbery and cash snatches. Eventually I was caught and went to prison again. Whilst in prison I made contact with different people involved in the drug trade. I came out of prison and found myself in London dealing drugs with a Turkish firm. We would bring the drugs into the country ourselves. Once, I left London to go home and visit my children and during this visit the Turkish firm got nicked. I escaped once again. I kept swapping between drug dealing and robbery to fund my habit. I started to get involved in other crime doing whatever was necessary to feed my addiction. In time I found myself back in prison, again!
One evening I was thinking to myself of the fact that I had read so many books yet I had never read the Bible. I looked around the cell but couldn’t find one. The following morning I left my cell to attend work and there outside the cell on the radiator was a brand new Bible. That evening I started reading the Bible and I came across the scripture in Matthew, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” That verse spoke straight into my heart and I decided to become a Christian there and then. The next week I was visited by an old girlfriend. She told me that she had been clean for the past 10 years after going to Teen Challenge and becoming a Christian. I came out of prison and applied to go to Teen Challenge London as I knew I needed help with my drug addiction. I was accepted on to the programme in 2010 and since completing the programme I have gone on to the work and live the life I always wanted to do.
Paul is now the director of Exit Foundation, an organisation dedicated to providing support to those ready to exit a life of crime & gang-related activity.