Moses Keeling: my life and my hopes for the future

PUBLISHED: 06:10 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 22:40 15 June 2010

A CONVICTED criminal in Seaton understands why residents are angry but says he is determined to try to turn his life around.

A CONVICTED criminal in Seaton understands why residents are angry but says he is determined to try to turn his life around.Earlier this month, Moses Keeling, 47, of Harbour Road was ordered to do 300 hours of community work after pleading guilty to a burglary - instead of a mandatory three year prison sentence.The decision by Recorder Sarah Munro QC at Exeter Crown Court outraged victim Russell Bleazard and other Seaton residents.While also surprised by the court outcome, Mr Keeling said facing life in the real world would actually prove more testing.Mr Keeling, who had 33 previous court appearances for over 130 offences, said: "For me prison is just an occupational hazard. I was prepared go to jail - coming out with this kind of sentence doesn't seem like punishment."But having to deal with all those little things that people take for granted is a challenge for me. Paying my TV license has been ridiculed but you have to take it in context - it was the first time in my life I'd done it and it shows some change in itself."At the age of 47, I picked up my first wage packet and started to pay tax. I'm trying to become a 47 year-old man, not a 47-year-old criminal. The odds of me not going back into prison in the next 2 years are probably 600 to one. Yet I'll never give up hope that I'll get it right one day."Mr Keeling, who has received threats since coming out of custody and has been banned from some pubs in the area, recognises the affect his actions had on Mr Bleazard and is sorry he let people down."I can understand Mr Bleazard's anger. It must be the most frightening thing to have somebody come into your home. It causes emotional damage as well as monetary and inconvenience. "Even if the person wasn't at home, to have somebody go through your things must feel like a violation. I've had enough of leaving victims behind me, devastation and people wondering 'why me'?"At the age of 14, Mr Keeling went into care for protection from his violent father - who later committed suicide. Sexually and physically abused there, it acted as a catalyst for his drug taking and life of crime.He said: "It would be fair to describe me as a career criminal. From an early age I was taken out by my father and uncle to commit crime and I grew up in that whole culture that it was acceptable."When I came out of care I was very damaged, with a hatred of the world, my parents and myself. I made a conscious decision about what I was going to do because I felt society was to blame."In 1979 he moved to Norfolk and joined a biker group and a satanic covenant, which he felt acted as an outlet for his anger. Out of 31 years, he surmises he has only been free for six of them.Despite his troubled upbringing, he says there is no justification for his actions.He said: "I don't want people to have the impression that I'm the way I am because of my past. "We still have the free will to make right and wrong decisions and I don't want to come across as 'woe is me'."There are people who have had similar or worse experiences and they haven't done what I've done."His turning point came in 2002 when he joined a therapeutic community in prison, helping him to get off drugs and tackle his demons. Until his latest conviction, he had not been convicted of any crime for a record of 16 months.No longer running away, he said he wants to make Seaton his home. He said: "If I could change what I did I would. "When I came to Seaton the majority of people welcomed me but I abused their trust by committing this burglary. "Are they ever going to forget? I don't think so. It can by a very unforgiving town."Condemn me but don't write me off just yet because I'm trying to continue with what I have started to do - change my life. There are no guarantees. "All I can say is that I'm closer now to being the person I want to be.

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