Former lag who is pals with Charles Bronson opens up on ‘traumatic’ crime life

A former lag who is pals with notorious criminal Charles Bronson has opened up on what it was like to go to prison at just 14-years-old.

Stephen Gillen, 52, is a filmmaker, an author, and the CEO of his own business, but his life hasn't always been this way. Growing up in Ireland in the 1970s, Stephen came face-to-face with violence from a young age and when he moved back to London as an orphan, he says he was groomed by crime lords.

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The father-of-three from Surrey, became a leading figure in the underworld and rubbed shoulders with the most notorious criminals the UK has ever seen.

But that life came crashing down when he was handed a 17-year jail sentence, of which he served 12 years as a Category A prisoner.

And ahead of the release of his upcoming book Stephen Gillen The Search For A Life Worth Living next spring, Gillen said: "It has been even traumatic at times to have delved back into the depth of my dark past, but the mission and message of how I survived at such a high level of constant danger and navigated a true transformation to true redemption and hope, needs to be told."

He added: "There are many others who are destined to wrestle personal darkness but this destruction can be the most creative brightness. Life balances all things in the end, and it gives us not what we want – but what we become."

In this ‘tell all’ book, Stephen discusses the demons that have chased him from childhood, pushing him into crime and ultimately causing him to pay a terrible price.

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Stephen’s autobiography details his life inside some of the UK's ‘darkest and most dangerous’ prisons and how a complete psychotic break finally helped him to see how his life could be better.

Following his release in 2003, Stephen is determined to help others avoid going down a criminal path.

In a chat with the Mirror in June, Gillen opened up on his early years.

He said: "When I came from Ireland aged nine with a lot of trauma, there's immense trauma there, and I was brought back because my maternal grandmother died of cancer over there.

"I was a little kid on the boat with a case coming to an alien country, I didn't have anything.

"From there it kind of went downhill in a sense because I went through a succession of foster homes and children's homes which were quite brutal and violent, and I stuck up for the younger ones.

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"Some of the homes, one in particular in Hertfordshire, it was extreme – a few members of staff were brutal to all the children."

Stephen said that while the prison sentence was supposed to be a punishment, it worked out to be a training ground for criminality – and introduced him to a network of contacts that would later set his fate.

Gillen was in prison with Britain's most violent prisoner, Charles Bronson, and he revealed the yob of all yobs still sends his Christmas cards.

He told The Sun: "I understand that people like Charlie, and me back then, need to be contained, but conditions inside weren't always engineered to encourage people's best behaviour.

"Charlie was branded in a certain way as a violent prisoner thanks to his protests and other behaviour early on," he said.

"As a result, he was never given a chance to become anything else. This myth around him was created and he ended up living up to it."

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