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Breaking the cycle

LIFE CHANGER: Author of From the Streets to Scotland Yard, Gwenton Sloley

WHAT CAUSES a young man to descend into a life of crime and violence? And once he’s immersed in it, can the cycle ever be broken?

The recently re-released book, From the Streets to Scotland Yard: A Broken Street Cycle, by Gwenton Sloley, is a gritty account of the author’s early life.

It chronicles his decline into a world of gang crime, and how his criminal lifestyle culminated in him receiving a six-year prison sentence for armed robbery when he was just 17-years-old. 

When he was released from prison, former police superintendent Leroy Logan offered Sloley his first legitimate job, working with the youth offending team, helping young men who wanted to escape gang life. 

As well as being an accomplished author, Sloley is a coach and mentor and is keen tell his story to help others. He is now director of Crying Sun’s Trust, which aims to eliminate gangs and gun and knife crime by working with young people and providing youth work training.

The Voice spoke to author Gwenton Sloley, 31, about his turbulent life and developing From the Streets to Scotland Yard.

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What was life like for you as a child?
Life for me was great living in Jamaica. Even though we were poor, my parents work hard to make sure we had food and clothes.

When did things start to go downhill?
It all changed when I came to England, aged eight and saw children not listening to the teacher and immediately that appealed to me. I went from being the smartest in the class, to being a naughty boy.
Life as a teenager was hard because I got caught up in youth culture. That then led me into joining a local gang because it was safer to be in one, than become a victim.

What kind of crime did you participate in during your gang days?
Life on the streets playing soldier was just like being in the army – it wasn't personal it was all business. I've tried nearly every crime you could commit. But robbing drug dealers was my specialty because I felt like I was doing the country a good service by stopping the drugs killing people. It was a quick way to build your name as a dangerous person as people would run when they saw me. It felt like electric love, a bad thing with a good feeling.

What was your prison experience like?
Prison for me was like rehab. I just used the time to find myself and I went back to being the intelligent person I am. I just used the time to do as much courses as I could.
Then, I would cause trouble to be kicked out of every prison so I could do more courses as most prisons have different courses. I travelled to nine prisons across the country in the three years out of my six-year sentence. My probation officer said she had never seen so many qualifications and certificates from any of her other probationers.

What did it take to make you want to turn your life around?
A friend of mine called Darren Ogiste died a year after I came home. He would always encouraging the young ones around him to go to university, so I left the streets to set up my company Crying Sun’s to help the young men on the streets crying out for support before it was too late.

How long did it take for you to write the book?
I started it in prison just as a past time, then when I came home, a friend of mine introduced me to a woman called Louise Payne who was a life saver. She sat me down and helped me structure the 100 pieces of random cribbing I had about my life.
It was not an easy process by any means to put your life story on paper also knowing you will be upsetting a lot of people as sometimes the truth hurts. 

How did it feel to share your experiences with the world?
I was very difficult I have to give thanks to the people around me at that time, including my dad, my wife and Louise Payne, who pushed me and refuse to let me give up.

Are you content with life now?
There is always room for improvement but I am happy to be where I am at now, and being the first person in the UK to work at the level I have with a criminal record.

Why is helping others important to you?
I am about making sure everyone I come in contact with recognises their self-worth.

Are you working on any other projects or books?
My next book will be out this year entitled Alone With My Thoughts, and it focuses on the subject of male sexual abuse.
I’m also working on becoming the next MP for Hackney.

From the Streets to Scotland Yard is available now from Amazon

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