OBE for ex bank robber turned convict reform leader in Bromley and south east London
PUBLISHED: 15:13 06 January 2011
Ex-prisoner Bobby Cummines, who is now chairman of the convict reform charity Unlock, which deals with offenders from across south London and north Kent, was a career criminal in his youth.
Despite earning his first conviction aged just 16, when he was jailed for seven years for carrying a sawn-off shot gun, and later being sent to Maidstone Prison for 12 years for another armed robbery where he was also convicted of manslaughter, Mr Cummines is to receive an OBE.
This week the 58-year-old admitted he had no qualms about taking the honour despite his law-breaking past.
He said: “This shows there is a way back, you can be forgiven and society come to accept you. The great thing about this is for the kids I speak to and my own, to show them crime doesn’t pay and proves if you put in the work, the right way does.”
Mr Cummines fell into a life of crime at a young age but since his release in 1988 he has transformed his life.
He founded Unlock in 1999, is a leading advisor on panels for prison reform and spends time visiting young offenders institues speaking with inmates on how they can stay clean on release.
Mr Cummines added: “It came as a bit of a shock to be honoured with an OBE. I can’t think of anyone else from my background to receive one. I am totally honoured as I’m an out and out royalist. Most of the criminals of my time were, the Krays had pictures of the Queen and the Queen Mum on their cell walls and so did loads of others.
“It’s funny because throughout my life I have dealt with police officers, prison officers and now I’m an officer of the British Empire myself,” he added.
The penal reform campaigner recently unveiled radical plans for a £48 million scheme where prisoners jailed for less than a year are housed and educated in a dedicated ‘village’ community.
Currently being considered by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, his ‘Diamond Project’ to be based in south east London is the culmination of a six year project. He proposes a secure compound to house criminal justice services, community and educational facilities and places for relatives to stay in one place.
In May his plan was presented to the government as Mr Clarke seeks ways to modernise the criminal justice system and cut spiralling reconviction rates.
Mr Cummines said: “Prison is not working, reconviction rates are too high and the prison population is at breaking point.”
He added: “They go in having nicked a car and come out knowing how to make drugs and get a gun. What good is that for society?”
Hundreds of messages of congratulations on his OBE honour from colleagues and former prisoners helped by his charity have flooded in but he revealed his favourite message of support came from a neighbour’s son.
He said: “I was walking along the street with my wife and he came over and said ‘Uncle Bobby are you a Jedi?’ I was a bit confused. ‘Well my dad said you were an Obi so are you a Jedi?’ Well I couldn’t let him down so as well as an OBE I’m now a Jedi Knight. My wife and I went round the corner and just creased up.”