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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 12:46 GMT
'Crime started taking over'
Gun crime affects not only the victims but also the perpetrators. Academics from Portsmouth University, funded by the Home Office, interviewed 80 prisoners serving time for firearms offences to find out how they got involved in gun crime.

Name: Paul
Age: 28
Place: West Midlands
Offence: Jailed for 18 years for armed robberies, kidnap and firearms offences

Paul, now aged 28, of the West Midlands, was excluded from school at the age of 14 but eventually found a job as a cable-fitter.

At about the age of 20 Paul said he got "mixed up with the wrong people and started to smoke drugs, crack, and that's where it went down hill".

He said: "Crime started taking over, crime expanded to bigger and bigger things."

He left his job and became a shoplifter, spending up to 400 a day on crack cocaine.

Paul travelled across the country and was mixing with criminals from both Birmingham and Manchester gangs.

He got into more and more debt to local dealers.

One dealer fired at him in a pub over a debt of 7,000, but Paul felt he could ignore this individual and refused to pay up.

But as his habit increased Paul incurred further debts to "very serious people" who made threats to him and his family.

Paul said he thought: "It's either me killing them or paying them and I wasn't prepared to kill them".

Guns seized by Gtr Manchester Police
I feel sick. I don't like talking about it to be honest

Instead he carried out a disastrous robbery, with an imitation firearm, of a nearby post office.

Though Paul escaped with the money and paid off his debt, he was followed by members of the public.

He ended up kidnapping them and fled after a succession of carjackings.

Paul was eventually caught and several real firearms were retrieved in a raid at his home, including a sub-machine pistol.

He was charged with armed robberies, firearms, kidnapping, causing grievous bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment, carjackings and numerous minor offences.

Paul pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

He found the interview process painful and concluded: "I feel sick. I don't like talking about it to be honest...

"Brings back memories, you know, it wasn't the real me that's done them things, that was somebody who was basically a lunatic."

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