Bad boy's bid to get his life back on track
PUBLISHED: 06:47 01 November 2010
DRUNK at 12, high on ecstasy at 15 and locked up in a youth offenders' institution by the age of 16 - it's hardly the perfect start to life for a young man.
Prolific offender Ben Gregory admits he moved in the wrong circles and became involved in crime far too easily during his school years.
A member of the Bournville Bad Boys gang, the 20-year-old turned his back on education for the ‘thrill of breaking the law’.
But the reformed offender wants to now help stop others making the same mistakes and take a downward plunge into lives of crime.
Slapped with an ASBO and recently released from a month-long jail sentence, Ben spoke exclusively to the Mercury about his upbringing, his near-endless list of offences and his new determination to lead ‘a normal life’.
He said: “I felt at a young age I could get away with murder.
“I joined a group of older boys and wanting to gain a reputation I went on a ruthless streak of committing offences.
“We really didn’t care about anyone, and the courts could do nothing to stop us.
“I was in and out of youth offenders’ institution, but nothing could change me.”
By the age of 18, Ben had been before the youth courts for more than 40 offences, mostly for shoplifting to buy alcohol.
Other offences included damaging private property and stealing cars.
A year later he joined the Bournville Bad Boys, a group of nine members with ‘BBB’ tattoos which committed crime together.
Among the targets were police, with Ben admitting to have vandalised more than 20 marked police cars.
On-call officers have also been victims of abuse from the group.
He said: “Some people have drug addictions, my addiction was to crime – it was the thrill of it and the chase from police.
“I loved the life I was leading, but I didn’t see the bigger picture and that I was damaging my future.
“I thought I had it all, but really I was digging myself a hole.
“If I could go back in time I’d do many things differently.”
Ben says frequent probation appointments, curfews and a long criminal record make it difficult for him to tie down a job.
Currently searching out warehouse work, the young man says he now wished he got his school grades and avoided a life of crime.
He said: “School was never important to me - I ignored my teachers and often skived lessons.
“But now I look back and I see the benefit it would have had on me.
“My message to anyone else would be to stay in class, get those grades.”
Ben made national news last month when he wrote a letter of apology to his victims, through the Mercury, from his prison cell.
His message was welcomed cautiously by police, who are closely monitoring him to help him get back on track.
Living in a bail hostel in Bristol, Ben gets £51 a week job-seekers’ allowance, but says the money hardly covers the cost of rent and food.