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Real-life stories: Perpetrating violence or crime

Hooked On Heroin, A Very Angry Young Man Committed Over 100 Crimes


Reformed criminal Richard Taylor has returned to the town where he found God to help homeless ex-offenders and addicts.   Richard Taylor committed over 100 crimes and was hooked on heroin before becoming a Christian while awaiting sentence in Swansea prison.

God turned Richard’s life around with the help of the Gwent-based charity Victory Outreach UK. Today, some fifteen years later, Richard is the charity’s new Director having been admitted to the post by no less than the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When Richard was taken in by Victory Outreach in 1993 he was a heroin addict. Now his job is to help others staying at the same place to re-integrate into society.

‘A Magistrate once referred to me as a scumbag from Llanelli who would never amount to anything,’ Richard said. ‘But I’ve a theology degree, I’m a reverend and I’ve toured the world giving Christian talks.’

Richard grew up in Llanelli, Dyfed. He was a ‘very angry young man’ after his dad left when he was 10. He stole his first car at 13 and had committed over 30 offences by the age of 15. His offences include burglaries, car thefts and dealing drugs. He started injecting heroin at 17 and described himself as a ‘skinny gaunt smackhead with no future, enclosed in a prison of my own making’.

‘No one led me astray, I did it all by myself,’ he said. He realised he would have ‘to sort himself out’ but had no idea how to go about it. ‘I still wanted answers to life – but answers that didn’t include God.’

By 18, he had served three terms inside. He was again in Swansea Prison for a variety of crimes and expected to serve four years. He was nine stone and was getting heroin and cannabis smuggled into his cell.

‘I had run out of tobacco papers, so tore a page out of a Gideons’ Bible to make a spliff. But I started reading it and couldn’t put it down.’ The page came from John’s Gospel which ignited Richard’s passion for reading the Bible.

When Richard went before Swansea Crown Court, Victory Outreach UK founder Dinah Sansome MBE was in the public gallery.

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Richard’s barrister read Dinah’s letter of support to the court and the judge, knowing of the charity’s reputation, bailed Richard into their care.

‘When I arrived, the pastor was speaking about life and I found myself praying,’ he said. Richard experienced a personal and profound vision of Jesus on the cross that night. His response was to give his life to God. ‘I was on heroin at the time, but just stopped and had no withdrawal effects.’

‘Both mentally and physically, I was absolutely free. Had I needed any further proof that God was real and was doing something amazing in me, that was it.’

Victory Outreach UK encouraged Richard to study and he gained a theology degree. He spent nine years as an associate minister at the Renewal Christian Centre, Solihull and in 2004, wrote his autobiography to help prisoners and ex-offenders. Thousands of copies of ‘To Catch a Thief’ were sent to UK prisons. He still gets hundreds of letters from prisoners who have responded to Richard’s story.

This led to a television series of the same name on home security. He now offers advice on preventing burglaries on BBC’s The One Show.

Richard is married to Jill and they have four sons.

He said: ‘It’s easy to curse the darkness. I chose to light a candle. Putting people in prison isn’t always the best way.’ His task at Victory Outreach will be to help others break the cycle of crime through God’s love and power.

Richard Taylor, 2009

Story and photograph by courtesy of Challenge Newsline


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