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- Created on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 00:00
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Former criminal with more than 50 convictions gets degree - in CRIMINOLOGY
Natalie Atkinson has turned her life around with a first class degree in Policing, Investigation and Criminology.
A 25-year-old woman with more than 50 convictions has turned her life around to graduate from university with a first class degree in criminology with honours.
Natalie Atkinson put her troubled past behind her to be awarded top marks in her Policing, Investigation and Criminology degree.
Despite leaving school when she was just 14-years-old she scored 95 per cent in her dissertation.
The clever alumna will go on to do a Master’s degree in Criminology after being accepted at the London School of Economics (LSE).
She was crowned the National Union of Students (NUS) Endsleigh Student of the Year during a ceremony at Bolton’s Macron Football Stadium.
Natalie who studied at the University of Cumbria said: “It’s amazing and to be honest I am still in shock.
“I have gone from being a prolific offender living a chaotic lifestyle to living a settled and happy life, so if I can do it then anyone can.
“Looking back, if someone had said to me a few years ago that in 2014 I’d be graduating with a first class honours degree, moving to London to commence a Master’s degree and looking forward to a successful career, I would have laughed.
“But this is my life.
“If you set your mind to it anything is achievable, but it is up to you to make the changes that need to be made.
“All you need to do is take little steps to begin with and you will see things changing. Everyone will have a different path to desistance, you just need to find yours.”
Proud Natalie, from Lancaster, is now an activist for troubled teens and recently presented BBC3 documentary Banged Up and Left to Fail.
The show highlights the plight of of youngsters going through the criminal justice system and their lack of prospects.
In the hour-long programme she meets jailed young offenders while also liaising with MP Jeremy Wright, Minister for Prisons.
She told the cameras how she had more than 50 criminal convictions and claimed to have committed more than 100 offences, including battery, damage, theft and assaulting a police officer.
“Throughout my teenage years I was a persistent offender, constantly in and out of police cells and once I turned 18 prison,” she said.
“Prison made me worse. I wanted rehabilitating, not a chance - I was just punished, I was contained ,I was held...then let out.”
“At 13, I used to want to go back to secure units because its the only place I would feel safe and settled.
“It all changed when i turned 18, I graduated to the adult criminal justice system, a week after my 18th birthday I was locked up in HMP Styal.
“My history of assaults meant I was high risk and put on the wing with the most serious adult offenders.
“It was a whole different world, there was violence, fighting, aggression.
“I learned more about drugs than I’d ever known and got addicted to subutex, a heroin substitute. One inmate took her own life because she couldn’t cope.”
Natalie added: “Returning to education was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome.
“When I first started University I was so nervous that I would not fit in, as I thought everyone would know I am an ex-offender and that I would not be able to do the work.”
University of Cumbria Student Union Chief Executive Daryl Ormerod said: “Natalie’s story is compelling.
“Her ongoing commitment to developing herself so that she may in turn help others as she has been helped, is simply inspiring.
“We are proud to have her amongst our membership, and wish her well for what I am sure will be a highly successful future.”
By Stephen White
Source: Mirror UK