I lived with Charles Bronson in prison – this is what hes really like

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Stephen Gillen spent almost 20 years as an inmate in some of the highest-security prisons in Britain, making him one of the country's most notorious convicts at the time.

So perhaps it's not a surprise that he got to know another of the UK's most infamous hardmen – Charles Bronson.

Over the years Stephen would be incarcerated in 25 different prisons, and in a few of them he struck up a friendship with Bronson.

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He was in Brixton, Wandsworth, Wakefield, Belmarsh and Full Sutton prisons with Bronson for months at a time, spread out over a 12-year period.

Gillen started a life of crime as a child, first locked up when he was only 14.

In 1993, when he was 22, he was jailed for 17 years for attempted robbery and firearms offences and it wasn't long after that that he first met the man he knows as Charlie.

Bronson is often referred to as 'Britain's most violent prisoner' and has been incarcerated for a total of nearly 50 years after repeatedly having his sentence increased for violent acts including armed robbery, attacking prison staff and taking them hostage.

According to Gillen, Bronson, 70, who is being held in prison indefinitely, is "absolutely not the most dangerous prisoner in the UK penal system" and is someone who deserves a second chance.

Gillen said of Bronson: "I wasn’t his cell-mate, I may as well have been because we were always in single cells, but we would be in blocks or segregation blocks, so we’d be next door to each other.

"We always got on famously, me and Charlie. We would talk for hours and hours into the night, he’s a fantastic storyteller.

"The image people may have of him over the years is far from reality in many respects. He has wonderful sides to him that include generosity, real old-school values and a keen sense of protection for women and children.

"He is highly creative and a wonderful artist who has done much for charitable causes. And now he’s in his later years, he’s changed a lot as people do.

"He’s 70 years of age now. He’s not the youthful, 'real big problem' that he was back in them days. People have to be held accountable for their actions in a healthy, progressive society.

"If you compare what Charlie did, to what a lot of other people who have murdered, done all kinds of stuff, who have got parole and they’re out. So where is the humane line here?"

Bronson shares the same viewpoint, highlighted in a rare media 'appearance' where he sent Sky News a voice-note.

Speaking about the date for his public parole hearing Bronson said: "Hopefully I've got a date soon for my public parole hearing.

"I'm the first man in Britain to have a public one. And the reason I'm doing that, is I'm going to expose the system for what it's done to me.

"I bet you can't believe I'm still in, can you? I'm 70 years old now.

"I've never murdered anyone. I've never raped anyone.

"It's all coming out in the wash. My side of the story. And the truth is, it's going to shock the planet."

Gillen added: "Every case needs to be looked at individually on its merit. If you look at Charlie, all things considered, I know he’s a high-profile case, but he should be given the opportunity.

"Was Charlie a handful back in the day and did he get himself in major trouble? Absolutely, yes he did.

"Is he the most dangerous prisoner in the UK penal system? Absolutely not.

"There’s a lot more dangerous people in there, a lot crazier people than Charlie.

"He’s gathered this media profile which escalated."

Bronson set a precedent when he became the first prisoner to request a public hearing which would allow the public and media to observe proceedings.

A date has not been set for Bronson's next parole review, although it is thought it could be later this year or early in 2023.

Stephen is now 51 and has turned his life around – he is now a humanitarian, peace ambassador and media company CEO.

To find out more information about Stephen visit his website.

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