I had accepted my life in prison – until it prevented me helping a friend in need

For 16 years, on and off, I was held at Her Majesty’s pleasure. It was the struggles and loss of a friend on the outside that made me realise how powerless I was

I am sure those who know my backstory of criminality imagine – reasonably – that the toughest times of my life were while I was a guest of Her Majesty, who kindly gave me full board and lodgings for 16 years, on and off, during the first six decades of my existence. And they are half right.

My first taste of her hospitality came in 1957 when, at 14, I was ordered to spend three months in a detention centre. Then a relatively new concept, these were designed to give miscreants a “short, sharp shock” that would teach us to stay on the straight and narrow.

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