I was 12 years old when I first started sniffing glue, gas and solvents. These things made me
feel high and made me have hallucinations, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
By the age of 14 I also started smoking cannabis and taking LSD, and again, sometimes I
had good trips and sometimes bad ones, a bit like horror films. By this time I’d also been
regularly involved in crime for a few years or more and I’d do things like steal cars,
burglaries and even Creeping, where we would break into houses whilst the owners were in
In my experience drug taking and crime often go hand in hand, and if you’re mixing in
circles where people take drugs, its likely that some of those people will also be committing
crime. And if its your mates that are doing this, chances are you’ll get influenced to join in.
And if you commit crimes it’s likely you’ll end up getting arrested. In my own case I started
having regular court cases from the age of 13.
By the age of 14 I was put in a children’s home by a court, and at this age I finally got
excluded from school and instead I had to start attending an intermediate treatment centre,
which was like a unit for young offenders. And I remember at the children’s home that we
would sometimes lock ourselves in the bathroom and smoke joints.
By the age of 15 I also started doing violent street robberies, and aggravated burglaries
where we would force ourselves into peoples houses and confront the owners with knives
and other weapons. At this time I also started taking the drug Speed as well, and nearly
every day I’d also be drinking in pubs. I also started selling Speed. And me and my friends
would often take it to stay awake at night so we could go Creeping.
One night we went Creeping and got chased by the police, then later arrested by them,
and my best friend Wayne stabbed a police women twice in the arm when she tried to
arrest him. He got an eighteen month sentence for this, and would have got a lot longer,
but he was only 14 at the time of the crime.
After we’d got arrested I was sent to Latchmere House remand centre, which was a
prison for young people between the age of 15 and 21. And I was surprised that even in
prison there were people taking drugs, with inmates smuggling in cannabis and even drugs
like heroin. Inmates smuggled drugs in by pushing the cling film wrapped drugs into their
anus or by swallowing them and then sifting through their excrement. And by keeping the
drugs in their anus’s they could avoid them being discovered in cell and strip searches.
I was in the remand centre for about five weeks, then I was sent to another open unit at
Red Hill in surrey, and they prepared reports on me for the judge, who was to sentence me
for crimes like burglary. The judge then sentenced me to another intermediate treatment
centre, but this one I’d live at for several weeks for the first part of it, and later that year I’d
be back there for another two weeks to complete the program.
The I.T centre was in Harpendon, in Hertfordshire, and I completed the three weeks then
came home, but shortly after I appeared in court for an old burglary charge and I was
sentenced to three months in a detention centre.
Send detention centre in surrey was known as the short sharp shock. It was a military
style regime and we had to march everywhere, do outside farm type work, and we had to
do intense physical exercise twice daily, that included field runs and circuit training.
I got released from D.C after six and a half weeks, and I was extremely fit. And I went
back to crime straight away. Then I did the last two weeks of the Harpendon I.T program,
but it wasn’t rehabilitating me as I took cannabis back there and smoked it with the other
kids on the program and one night I sneaked out in the early hours of the morning and went
One of the reasons why young people commit crime is because they’re bored and crime
is exciting. People often commit crime as well due to peer group pressure. They want to be
accepted by their friends, so they join in with them. And the reasons why young people
often take drugs, is for the same reasons, but also because drugs provide escapism and
initially taking drugs make you feel good.
Another thing that negatively affected me when I was growing up was the fact that my
dad was an alcoholic, who sometimes hit my mum, and I can remember seeing my dad
punch my mum in the face on two different occasions, the first time when I was only six
years old. I can also remember once being in bed at night frightened as I listened to my
mum screaming and crying whilst my dad attacked her after he’d came home drunk. My
dad eventually stopped being violent when he was older, but the damage was already done.
And in defence of my dad, I can honestly say that most of the time my dad was colourful
character, very funny, kind and generous. He also worked hard to provide for my mum, me
and my two younger brothers. And when he was violent, it was usually when he was under
the influence of alcohol.
I remember years later one of my friends I was in prison with said, “When you were a kid,
you always looked so serious, like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
Several months after I was released from detention centre I was arrested for three
robberies and sentenced to ten months youth custody. I spent most of this sentence in
Rochester Youth Custody Centre in Kent, and whilst there I regularly smoked cannabis,
firstly when I was in a dormitory, then when I was moved to a cell on B Wing after me and
several friends had tried to start a riot.
I got into quite a few fights when I was in Rochester, mainly because I was only a 15 year
old, little skinny kid, and people tried to bully me, but after a while when people realised I’d
stand up for myself and fight back, not many people tried to bully me anymore.
I had a six day home-leave from Rochester shortly before my release date, and on home
leave I met up with my friend David and we committed various crimes. I also came back
from home leave with cannabis on me.
I completed my sentence on 6 th July 1984, and the next day I was arrested for stabbing a
man in an attempted street robbery. I was remanded in custody and on the 14 th December
that year, whilst I was still 16, I was sentenced to be detained for eight years.
I started my sentence on the convicted wing at Latchmere House, then after a couple of
months I was sent to Aylesbury Youth Custody Centre. The minimum sentence in Aylesbury
was three and a half years, and the longest sentences were things like double life, and some
inmates there were serving recommended sentences of over twenty years. There were a lot
of murderers there, bank robbers and rapists etc.
Later that year I went to the court of appeal in The Strand in London, and I smuggled a bit
of cannabis in there and I smoked a couple of joints there with people in the cells. I then
went into the dock stoned and the three high judges there reduced my eight year sentence
to six years. I was a bit disappointed as I’d hoped to get my sentence reduced on appeal to
at least five years, but I quickly recovered. I even said thank you to the judges after they’d
reduced it, and they looked at me a bit shocked, as you’re not supposed to talk to them.
When I’d got eight years just before Christmas the year before, after the judge had
sentenced me I gave him a little wave from the dock and wished him a happy Christmas. I
remember that a lot of people in the court started laughing. I was just being defiant and
cocky and wanted the judge to know that he hadn’t broken me.
By the end of 1985 I was growing angrier and more defiant. I started assaulting and
attacking prison officers, was shipped out to different prisons, and was often put in the
solitary confinement block as punishment. I was also often restrained by gangs of prison
officers and sometimes I was stripped naked and beaten up by them. It made me hate them
more and more. And sometimes I was in the block for a couple of months at a time.
In Feltham Youth Custody Centre I attacked a couple of prison officers on different
occasions and because I was so often violent the prison authorities tried to get me
transferred to Broadmoor, which was a maximum security mental hospital. I was
interviewed by a psychiatrist from there, and thankfully he said that I wasn’t mad.
I eventually got shipped out of Feltham the day I’d escaped from the block exercise yard
there and I climbed up onto the prison roof and staged a four hour protest, simply because I
was bored. I’d have probably stayed up there longer, but a lot of the time I was up there it
was pouring with rain.
After the roof top protest I was shipped out to Chelmsford Youth Custody Centre that
night. And on Christmas day there, 1986, I chinned an officer and a group of officers then
dragged me to the punishment block and battered me.
When I came out of the block about a month later, I carried on doing some education
classes in the prison and when I showed the English teacher a short story I’d wrote, she
seemed surprised and amazed that I could write so well, and she enrolled me to take an RSA
English exam, and with only a little bit of preparation and study, I passed the exam and it
was my first ever qualification. I was 19.
About this time I made my first attempt at writing a novel. I then got transferred back to
Aylesbury again. And I carried on doing education classes. I learned to touch type and
gained another RSA qualification, this time in Business Studies. And I started becoming
interested in filmmaking after finding a book about screenwriting and other books about
filmmakers in the prison library.
I got released on parole in September 1988 after I’d served four years and two months of
my sentence. I was 20. When I got out I saw that many of my old friends that used to take
cannabis and soft drugs were now addicted to drugs like heroin, cocaine, crack and ecstasy.
And I’ve learned that soft drugs often lead to people taking harder drugs in the future.
I got arrested again for burglary and possession of fire arms after I’d been out of jail for
about six months, and me and my co-defendant David were remanded in custody. I was 21
and it was my first time in an adult prison.
My friend David was a heroin addict and would smuggle it in on his visits, and whilst
sharing a cell with him I tried heroin for the first time. And for nearly two years that I was
back in prison, I took it regularly, sometimes smuggling it in on my own visits and I brought
back heroin and cannabis from home leaves near the end of my sentence. And whilst I was
on home leave I also smoked crack for the first time and took it many more times after that.
I got released from jail on December 13 th 1990, when I was nearly 23 years old. I trained
in Video Production at Battersea Basement Studios for the second time. I’d originally
studied there for a couple of months when I’d previously been on parole.
I also regularly continued taking cannabis, heroin, cocaine and crack, though unlike most
of my friends I weren’t an addict, but I was on the fringes of it all. I wrote an article about
my experiences of being a crack user and it was published in The Guardian, so now, as well
as being a filmmaker I’d also became a journalist.
Approaching the summer of 1991 I started regularly also taking the drug ecstasy in
nightclubs, then I got arrested with my friend Wayne for an aggravated burglary and we
were remanded in custody. And for a few months on remand we smoked cannabis every
day and took ecstasy once or twice a week. I then told Wayne that I didn’t want to take
drugs anymore and Wayne moved out of the cell. Shortly after this I became a Christian.
I’d started to go to church in Brixton prison and I found Christian books on the landing
and started reading them. Then I found a Christian pamphlet tract and I became a Christian
by repeating the salvation prayer on it. I’d invited Jesus into my heart and promised to live
for and serve him for the rest of my life. In return my soul is saved and will live for eternity.
And serving Christ isn’t like being in a slave relationship, its simply about becoming less
selfish, by serving and helping other people, and spreading the gospel by reaching out to
people with Jesus’s love. And Christ wants everyone to be saved, which is why Christians
evangelise in him.
When I’d became a Christian and leading up to it, I’d started to experience a spiritual
awakening, my conscience came alive for the first time in many years, and from having a
heart filled with so much anger and hate, I was suddenly filled with peace and love instead.
It was the first time I’d been in prison without getting into any fights or assaulting anyone. I
started becoming more sensitive and instead of hating a lot of the inmates and staff, I felt
love and care for them.
By the time I became a Christian though I was already starting to become mentally ill, and
I was released on parole after I’d been in prison a year and within a couple of months I had a
breakdown and I was hospitalized with schizophrenia.
I believe I became mentally ill because of all the drugs I’d taken. And I know that its not
just hard drugs that can cause mental illness, and that also soft drugs like cannabis and
speed can cause psychosis. I believe though that it was the drug ecstasy that caused me the
most damage and I believe I started becoming ill also because I was burning myself out by
writing so many prison letters, and for the first time in years I’d started to open up about all
the horrific, shocking and painful things I’d experienced since childhood, and there were
times when I’d break down in tears as I wrote letters.
Having a breakdown was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced. When I became
ill I believed that I was the antichrist and that God wanted to kill and destroy me. I thought
that the Mafia, the I.R.A, the London underworld and other people and organisations were
going to kill me. I also believed the police wanted to frame me for murders and I’d get a life
sentence and I’d kill myself in jail, and I suffered from other extremely painful and
embarrassing fears and delusions. I stopped eating and drinking for three days at a time,
and I went down to about eight stone in weight, and I’m six foot tall. I also stopped washing
and shaving for weeks and I walked miles and miles around the streets, often crying, and I
was so exhausted that I’m surprised I didn’t collapse. I also did things like drag a knife
across my stomach and I once even smashed a bottle over my own head as I was so
I was in Springfield psychiatric hospital on three occasions, twice on a section. And
amongst other things I was locked up and forcibly drugged. I was discharged from
Springfield late in 1993, and since then I remained on antipsychotic medication. I’ve
stopped taking medication several times since then, but after a short while I’ve started
getting ill again, so had to continue taking it.
I’d abandoned my Christian faith soon after I’d been released from prison in 1992, but
God hadn’t abandoned me. I started going to church again over six years later at end of
1998 and before that Christians stopped me in the street everywhere. Complete strangers
gave me their phone numbers and invited me to church. I always declined their offers
though. One day though I saw a banner advertising a Christian healing meeting, and I
attended and went forward to give my life to Christ again.
When I rededicated my life to Christ, my Christian conscience was awakened again, and
from then onwards I started making an effort to live honestly, tell the truth and I stopped
doing things like cheating social security, and I started telling the truth and being accurate
on forms, questionnaires and in writing articles etc. Living truthfully became important to
me again. And more than anything it also became freeing.
Shortly after I recommitted my life to Jesus a guy called Steve Nichols from The London
City Mission rang my intercom and I invited him into my flat. He told me a bit about
churches in my local area and I started attending a church where he was one of the
ministers. I then met Tom Torok, who was also a minister there, and his wife Aideen and
they invited me to dinner with them and their young family. Shortly after meeting them I’d
told Tom that I was a writer, but I didn’t have a computer. Tom and Aideen later then gave
me a key to their house so I could use their son’s computer to do my writing. They knew
that I was an ex long term prisoner and a schizophrenic, but they trusted me and I found this
Tom and Aideen also watched my the old videos I’d made and encouraged to study
filmmaking at college. And since then I’ve studied filmmaking at college and university and
I’ve got a City and Guilds and a HNC qualification in film production. I’ve also written
seventeen mainly slim books now, and have so far had three of them published as ebooks
by Chipmunka publishers, under my pen name Christophrenic. I’ve also made many short
films now, ranging from a music video, to documentaries and dramas, and I’ve got over sixty
films on Youtube, which also include lots of home video and family clips, and over a period
of many years I’ve also filmed lots of weddings, baptisms and other social occasions. In the
past couple of years I’ve also occasionally worked as a film extra. And one of my ambitions
is to one day write and direct a micro budget feature film.
I also met my wife Tara when I started attending Penge family church and I’ve been
married to her for more than twelve years now and I’ve got two grown up step children and
two daughters age 10 and 8.
The medication I’m on does a lot to make me feel mentally well and balanced. But some
aspects of the illness and side effects of the medication are horrible. I often feel physically
unwell and sick, usually for up to a few hours after waking up, and sometimes I vomit. I also
spend a lot of time feeling extremely tired and I’ve got weak concentration. I often feel
mentally inhibited and I’ve got very little mental and physical stamina, so I feel very weak
and debilitated sometimes. I also sometimes experience extreme anxiety, which makes me
feel tense a lot and afraid.
There are other times though that I feel the opposite of all this. When I feel energised,
bright and clear in my thoughts, and physically, mentally and spiritually free, so I feel there
is a balance.
I regret taking drugs when I was younger, because its made me ill for so many years. I
realise things could be worse though. I know five people who’ve died of drugs overdoses. I
know three people who’ve died in motorbike accidents, two of whom may have been on
drugs at the time. I know three people who’ve been murdered. I’ve also got three friends
who’ve served life sentences. I’ve got a friend who killed himself in prison. And another
friend who used to take drugs killed himself on new years day 2014. A lot of people I grew
up with are still on drugs and in and out of prison.
When I think about things like that, I can only be thankful that God has got me out of
such a destructive lifestyle and thank God that I’ve got a wife, family, and so many new
friends, and even though I still suffer from mental illness, I’m so glad that I’m alive.