HE has been stabbed nine times, slashed five times, shot and served time in Scotland’s toughest prisons. But now he is on a mission to make sure the young people of North Glasgow take a different path.

Paul Smith describes his life up to the point of 16 when he was caged over a string of assaults and robberies, as one defined by drink, drugs and violence.

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“I’m not trying to glamorise it, but I realised you could get things a lot easier with a knife in your hand, rather than working,” said the 39-year-old.

Now, he’s a chef with the G20 Youth Festival, a group for young people based in Ruchill.

The father of three – two with his current partner and one to his sadly deceased former partner – hopes to put children who are at risk of following in his footsteps on the straight and narrow.

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He said: “I was sentenced to 10 years for three very vicious stabbings, a few muggings, a shop robbery and a string of assaults – a whole catalogue of offences.

“It was a life of drugs, alcohol and violence, it came easy to me. I’m not proud of it but I was young, impressionable and I thought it was the fast way to money, women and clothes. All the things you think make a ‘real man’ when you’re 16.”

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Having served his time at Barlinnie, Shotts, Greenock, Polmont and Kilmarnock prisons, Paul came out wanting to make a difference.

“After a lifetime of taking, I grew to detest the world that I, in a lot of ways, helped build,” he said.

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“I wanted to make it better for not just my own children but other people’s children.

“I think people like me can help make a difference and make these younger ones feel like they are doing something right.”

He runs cooking classes with the young people and coaches them against making the same mistakes he did.

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He added: “They don’t realise, it’s not just prison time. There’s an expiration date on the streets.

“All this can happen to them, they could easily end up another statistic, they could very easily find themselves murdered, in hospital, stabbed, or shot, as I was. I still need to carry those scars.”

Cooking sessions with young people involve both teaching them practical kitchen skills and the importance of responsibility.

Food is delivered to the community, such as a food bank in the Wyndford and a local Women’s Aid group.

“They are not just learning how to cook, they are learning timekeeping, how to present themselves and other things that will help them in the world of work,” Paul said.

“I am a big believer in karma – I spent my life doing the wrong things and bad things happened to me. In the last 12 years of doing the right things, I won’t say the streets are paved with gold, but I don’t need to worry about my life anymore.

“Being involved with violence, when you’re young, you think it’s great, it’s intoxicating. When you get older, it takes a lot to get back to normal, people don’t want to see you in that way, but the more people hear about what I am doing now, the more you get a different kind of respect.”