Noel "Razor" Smith

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Noel "Razor" Smith (born 24 December 1960) is a British writer and former criminal. He has spent the greater portion of his adult life in prison, serving a life sentence for armed robbery. In prison he taught himself to read and write, gained an Honours Diploma from the London School of Journalism and an A-level in law. He has been awarded a number of Koestler awards for his writing and has contributed articles to the Independent, the Guardian, Punch, the Big Issue, the New Statesman and the New Law Journal. His autobiography, A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun, was published by Penguin in 2004.[1] He went on to write A Rusty Gun: Facing Up To a Life of Crime in 2010[2] after serving at the unique rehabilitation prison HMP Grendon, and moving to HMP Blantyre House and being released on 12 May 2010.[2] He is also now doing interviews for the social media Group “LAD Bible” where he talks about life in prison and as a criminal.

Life and criminal career[edit]

Smith was born in London, United Kingdom, to Irish immigrant parents: an unemployed and violent father and working mother.[3] He grew up in the Holloway Road area and in Balham. He was first arrested for stealing apples and at that time had a positive view of the police. However, whilst playing truant from school at the age of 14 with a friend, he was picked up by the burglary squad and was beaten and tortured by them. They were then forced to confess to a series of burglaries that they had never committed. When the case came to court, he admitted to making-up the burglaries and the magistrate ordered the police to investigate, leading to the charges being dismissed and a recommendation to sue the police. This then led to harassment by the police on several occasions, for example raiding the family home to the extent where they had no option but to drop the charges.[citation needed]

In his own words, Smith "threw [himself] into crime", and this led to Smith being sent to a detention center. At the age of 16 he appeared at the Old Bailey for armed robbery and possession of firearms and sentenced to 3 years. He used the contacts that he made during this sentence to become a professional robber, and spent his life as a professional criminal in and out of prison.[citation needed]

He committed over 200 bank robberies and was given a 26-year sentence, of which he served 11 years, and spent most of it reading.[citation needed] He was jailed for life in 1997 on the two-strikes provisions of the Crime Sentences Act 1997, after a robbery spree.

Now a reformed character, he has not been in trouble with the law since his release from prison in 2010.

Writing career[edit]

Whilst in Borstal, Smith tried to escape and assaulted a night watchman but was captured and thrown into a punishment block. He was allowed one book a day, and as he was not able to read he would use this book as a football. When he explained this to a Catholic priest, the priest would bring him easy-reading books and through this he became an avid reader. He quickly began to read books that he felt were no good, and felt he could write better.

In HMP Dartmoor, he tried his hand at writing and entered a short story competition and came second. Writing gave him the education to make written complaints, which he found to be more successful than violence. While on release in 1997 he met author Will Self at a dinner party. In 1999, he sent Self a short story that he had written, and was told that nothing would happen until he decided to change his criminal ways. Razor was further encouraged to change his ways after his son Joe died and following this applied to HMP Grendon. This led to him writing A Rusty Gun.[4]


  1. ^ Archived from the original on December 4, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b Andrew Anthony (July 25, 2010). "A Rusty Gun: Facing up to a life of crime by Noel 'Razor' Smith | Book review | Books | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  3. ^ "In the Criminologist's Chair - 16/08/2016 - @bbcradio4".
  4. ^ Archived from the original on February 6, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)