“Where I live I’d never seen anyone get off drugs so I’d accepted that’s how my life would be,” he explained. “A friend who was seeking help from a local drugs and alcohol service said to me, 'Are you not sick of what you are doing?' It was a reality check.”

The 37-year-old, who has a partner of 19 years and three children, agreed to meet staff from the small petrol station where he had stolen fuel as part of the Restorative Justice programme.

“I have taken from society for so long it was time to give something back," he said.

"At the meeting I was really nervous. I found out that the petrol station owner had been away on holiday so a woman had been working there and she’d been really frightened about having to tell her manager.

“I could see the pain I had caused them.

“Not only did I apologise but I was able to tell them that they hadn’t been targeted on purpose and there was nothing they could have done to prevent it."

Since then Mr Birdsall has encouraged his friends to take part in the scheme.

“It has had a real ripple effect, it was an amazing experience,” he added....

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