Three years in prison confronting memories of abuse he suffered stopped Leano Fleming from “killing someone.”
The 20-year-old had “become a bully” who was often in trouble with the law before he was convicted of stabbing a man four times at a house party in Slough in 2014: A crime he denies.
Leano, who started carrying knives aged seven, said he has transformed from a criminal in “the dirtiest, hardest, most disgusting jails in the country” to a 28-year-old family man and business owner.
“I was a bad person. It was inevitable I was going to prison for something so it was a blessing in disguise,” said Leano.
“It could have been I stabbed somebody but I killed them, because I was going down that road.”
He continued: “I’ve been convicted of many different offences in my time and most of them I did do.”
Leano stole his first knife from his parents and took it to primary school after being subjected to six months of racist abuse by a peer.
“I realised he’s never going to stop. It doesn’t matter how many times I beat him up, I can’t change his ideals and his beliefs.”
“I said ‘if you call me a P*** one more time I am going to stab you and I am going to kill you.’”
He added: “Now I look back on it, it was that point where social services should have got involved and said ‘what the f*** has happened to you.’
“Without realising it, I did become a bully.”
By 16, Leano was arrested with three knives, a knuckleduster and a corkscrew in his backpack.
He said he was fighting undiagnosed depression, anxiety and PTSD, and used violence to deal with his emotions.
On October 31, 2014, Leano went to a house party before a fight broke out.
Leano, then of Moray Drive, Slough, was convicted of stabbing a partygoer four times in the leg.
The victim required nine stitches, but Leano maintains this was one crime he did not commit.
A jury at Reading Crown Court decided otherwise, and Leano was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
“If I did not go to prison I would not have found out who I was. I would not have confronted my demons.”
“I found myself and I liked who I was without hurting people and getting into trouble.
“I said to myself I’m going to keep being this person.”
Upon leaving prison, he found out he had a son.
“That’s when I really turned my life around. I had to. I had a child out there who could possibly go down the same road I have. So I have to do everything in my power to make sure he doesn’t do that.”
Since then, Leano has set up Savage Sound System, a DJ and sound equipment business that tours Reading and Slough and recently played at Notting Hill Carnival.
He built the equipment himself, learning woodwork and wiring, and taught his little brother the skills needed to DJ.
“It’s all to do with keeping us out of trouble and I want to inspire young people to get into a programme we’re looking to make which would involve young people learning how to DJ and music production.”
He said: “I’ve been through it all, I’ve been through the worst, I’ve been to the dirtiest, hardest, most disgusting jails in the country and I made it. So if I can do it, anyone can.
“I’ve got two kids, I’m married, I’ve got my own home, my own business. My beliefs and my ideals have changed. I understand red flags.
“I’d like to thank my entire family and support network around me as I would not have been able to do it without them all.”
Asked what advice he has for young people carrying knives in the towns, Leano said: “I would say, when you stab someone, their mum cries every night for the rest of her life, their dad cries, brothers cry and furthermore, you will cry.
“I don’t care how big and bad and tough you think you are, when you get 35-40 years in prison, and that penny drops and you realise that you’re in there for the rest of your life, you will cry.
“You won’t just cry a week, or a month, you will cry for years. You’re not going nowhere.”
He recalled how a murderer he met in prison cried himself to sleep and begged for his mother every night.
“I don’t care who you are: No one enjoys fighting, it’s terrifying, you’re scared. You’re running off fear.”
He added: “I would say, you look for revenge and you’ll have to dig two graves mate, yours and his, because you’re both losing a life.”