Chair: Martin Gill
Kent was mainly a fraudster and thief, Andy dabbled in different offences, fraud, theft, burglary featured in our conversation. They were first imprisoned as teenagers, it was scary at first but they got used to it, and once they did it was no longer a deterrent.
They claimed they had a reasonable upbringing, neither comes from a ‘crime family’ as such. Kent had a good mother, and his father was in the army (which he would have liked to have joined himself) so was a way a lot and was a disciplinarian when he came back, which Kent found hard. He was a naughty child at school, he feels he was on the autistic scale and had difficulty concentrating which did not help. Those he knew at school would not have been surprised he ended up in prison.
Andy says his dad walked out on the family when he was 2. His mum had to work hard to pay the bills and he was placed with childminders a lot as a consequence. He resented that at the time, but then he did not realise she was paying a mortgage and not the rent and doing her best. The entrance of a stepfather into the family radically changed things, he was a disciplinarian and Andy did not understand or relate to his rules and that led he says to him going off the rails.
Both claimed they were young, strong minded, had a ‘knew it all’ frame of mind. They each lacked credible role models, from a dad in particular. Moreover, once they had a criminal record, and were in custody and committing crimes when others were getting qualifications, they were disadvantaged in the job market. The crime world by comparison was lucrative, around the turn of the century they were generating up to £1,000 per day. By then they had families, and the need for money dominated other considerations. So they regretted the harms they caused, but needs must, and they justified at least some behaviours in doing only want many do, fiddling taxes etc.
So what stopped them in the end? They did not relish going back to prison, but it was more than that. Kent has a steady relationship now, and he realises his son in particular needs him, he values that. The pressure he once felt from an ex-partner no longer applies and his current one has a good job. He did admit his mum saw some advantage in his incarceration; she knew where he was. Andy referenced being off drugs, ageing and realising prison was not a lifestyle he needed or wanted, and his kids wanting answers to his long absences. He also is aware he would be a wanted man and sentences are getting too long for someone with his record.
They both felt prisons were schools of crime. Kent had spent his most recent sentence in Belmarsh and you will hear him discuss that. They also felt that their offending has been encouraged by poor security in organisations; once they found their niche and targets it provided a very good living. For both of them there were many easy targets. Kent valued retailers that had a lack of security; a poor refunds policy; and goods he could easily sell on. When Andy was a burglar, he targeted richer neighbourhoods (he would seek them out in advance by driving around the area); look at those properties with easy access and egress; and that were not overlooked
I undertake penetration tests with Kent and Andy. We test security at buildings and report back on weaknesses; we steal from retailers and then return the goods and highlight security weaknesses; we engage with staff to identify how they could have stopped us; we consult with organisations about to introduce policies (such as a new refund policy). When done well these are very powerful indeed; they generate powerful insights and highlight ‘easy wins’ and ‘low hanging fruit’. I have long been convinced of the value of what I think is the unique view of the ex-offender, I am still surprised the world does not appear to share it. I think it is remiss.
25th March 2021