Man who spent most of his young adult life in jail is now a personal trainer – Wales Online
Gavin Etchell has spent nearly a decade of his life in prison. Before he had even reached his 20th birthday he had already spent three-and-a-half years behind bars.
His last stretch came after he and another man were caught with £300,000 worth of cocaine at a house in Tonypandy in 2014.
Gavin received a nine-year prison sentence for his part in the operation.
But now the 37-year-old has been given a second chance at going straight, and is passionately pursuing a career as a personal trainer.
He was released just a month ago, but already had the job interview lined up before he got out.
Gavin grew up in the Rhondda Valley and says he had a “completely normal childhood”.
“I first went to jail when I was 15 for GBH and robbery,” he said.
“I had four years but I ended up serving three-and-a-half. I was in there from the age of 15 to 19.
“They are supposed to be the best years of your life but I spent them in jail.”
Gavin served his time at Portland Youth Offender’s Institute in Dorset and left with just a few qualifications at the age of 19.
He spent time looking for work but after a few years he found himself in trouble again.
While on a night out in Cardiff for his birthday, he was found with ecstasy tablets and was arrested.
Gavin was given a three-and-a-half year sentence for possession with intent to supply.
But wasn’t to be his last offence. After his second stint inside, Gavin said he was learning a trade and working on the railway lines.
But an unexpected hand injury stopped him from working and he was left with no income.
He said he applied for benefits but it didn’t cover his rent, so he went back to selling drugs to make a living.
“I felt frustrated because I was out and doing everything right, but there was nothing there to help me,” he said.
“So I went back to what I knew because I thought I didn’t have much of a choice.
“I went back to selling drugs just to pay my bills. I wasn’t living a lavish lifestyle or anything like that. I was just doing it to get by.”
In September 2015, police raided Gavin’s home and discovered £300,000 worth of cocaine, along with cutting agents and equipment.
In court, it emerged that police had found a further £4,000 in cash at Gavin’s co-defendant Thomas Davies’ house.
Gavin received a nine-year sentence, while Thomas Davies, then 29, of Clydach Vale, got six years and eight months.
“I knew it was wrong while I was doing it,” Gavin said. “But at the time I didn’t think about it.
“I know it’s not the right way to look at it but if I hadn’t have gone back I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Gavin gained his personal training qualification during his time in prison and received help from Jamie Grundy – an independent support worker for ex-offenders and co-founder of InsideOut Wales.
The two met while Jamie was researching a book about a football team in HM Prescoed Prison in Monmouthshire where Gavin was serving the last part of his sentence.
Now only a month out of prison, Gavin is working shifts at PureGym in Cardiff and gaining personal training clients.
He says he’s determined not to return to his old habits.
“I’ve had help from the right people but that’s only because I have allowed that to happen,” he said.
“You can get out of jail and get on with your life, as long as you want it to happen.
“You have got to want it enough to do it. It’s still hard for me now. I’m still not on my feet properly but I’m in the right place for things to happen.”
He added: “To me it’s not a job. I’m doing something I love doing and I can get paid for it.
“I love the gym environment anyway. If you aren’t happy in your job what’s the point?”
This content was originally published here.