Extremist gang member talks to community group in Stapleford
A former member of a violent British extremist gang spoke to a group in Nottinghamshire about his journey and the potential for those that are lost to hate to turn their lives around.
Chris Hardy was once a member of a paramilitary gang and perpetrator of hate crimes against minority groups in the country but turned his life around after discovering God.
On Saturday, he gave an honest recollection of his violent past to a group at the Haven Centre in Stapleford and called for “hope and compassion in our communities” to tackle violence.
Chris remembers when he first began to turn to violence as a solution to his problems in the 1980s.
He was bullied at school because his dad was a police officer but said he was “tipped over the edge” when he found him dead.
The 49 year-old, who now lives in Leicestershire, said: “My dad was my hero, he was my world. He was the only one that instilled hope in my life and to lose him didn’t seem fair.
“I told myself that I would never let anyone get near to me again. No one was going to mentally or physically harm me. I allowed hate to take over me.”
Shortly after he was arrested by his dad’s former colleagues for acts of violence and turned to drinks and drugs, becoming “completely out of control”.
He became involved in football hooliganism and after having his concerns ignored about cultural changes in his community, turned to further violence as the solution.
“At one point I wanted to take our streets back and decided the only way to do that was through violence. I would actually target Asians, blacks, gay people and religious people.”
He was then approached by a paramilitary gang, who he does not name due to the risk of repercussions, and began following a national socialism ideology, influenced by Hitler and the Nazi Party, using firearms and explosives to promote their cause from the 1990s through to 2009.
But eventually he hit breaking point and “screamed for help” adding that he “couldn’t live” with what he had become.
Driven by the desire to do the right thing by his son, Callum, now 19, and later turning to Christianity in 2013, Chris Hardy unscrambled the hate and “became a man full of love and compassion.”
Building on his experiences, Chris now helps and educates others, including the police force, spreading the message that “violence only breeds violence” into communities.
“I’m not a changed man I am a transformed man. I have seen more transformations with people through love more than I ever have hate.
“If we can instill hope and compassion in our communities we can make a better community.”
Councillor Richard MacRae organised the community event and stressed it was an issue that was relevant to all communities. He said: “I want to bring unity to the community. Hate crime is all over the place, it’s not just a city problem any more.
“When I first heard Chris talk there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and I thought that the community needed to hear about it too. If he can make one person change their attitude then I’ve done my job.”
Dave Mansfield helps to run the Haven Centre, on Wadsworth Road, a church and community centre, and supported Richard’s thoughts.
He said: “You can have hate crime based on all sorts of things. All communities have some degree of hate crime.”