November 30 2023

Bruce: 24 hours to judgement

Bruce: 24 hours to judgement

PHOTO ESSAY: I met Bruce (15) and his partner Amy (17) as they were sleeping on the floor of a house in Market Town. Bruce went to the same high school as me, hangs around the same streets as I did. I was instantly enthralled with his story, troubles and perspective on life. You can read Amy’s story (Amy and the ties that bind).

Tomorrow Bruce has a court date and may be re-sentenced for his part in a burglary. I wanted to hear his story and listen to the life that led up to the events that could lead to six months in juvenile prison.


‘Court tomorrow. Breaching my court conditions. Something like that. Had to go to my Y.O.P. (Youth Offender Panel) team but I missed my first meeting so got to go back to court and get resentenced. I might be looking at 6 months.’

‘I think I’m going to get sent down because the last time I went to court the options I got given were the YOP meetings and probation for nine months or the only other option was to send me down.’

Playing GTA on PS2 the day before sentencing.

‘I compare it (Dereham) to a lot of big cities. Not like the buildings, more like the people. They think they’re better than anyone else, like that really. It’s all over drugs these days too. I got jumped down an alleyway in Dereham over a gram of weed. Pathetic things like that. Other groups of people against other groups of people. If I was going to start on one of those boys that did it, the whole of Dereham would get involved, it’s just not worth it but I get shit all the time, it’s why I don’t go into town that much.’

‘I’ve known all sorts of drugs, like I’ve seen people doing coke at Dereham rec (Playground and skate park) MDMA, LSD, Speed, Ketamine, Weed, Ecstasy, Meth… It all started at high school. I started smoking the first day I got there. It was an intake day at the High School where all the year 6s would go in for the day, see how it is. I already knew quite a few people there and one of the boys I knew was like the hardest bastard at school. I used to hang around with him and he’d have spliffs on the field.

It got to the point where I got introduced to all his mates, then all their mates and by year 8, year 9, well, by year 8 I started sneaking out at lunch, my mate started going home for lunch, had this note saying he could go home, I’d sneak out and meet him by the gates and we’d go back to his and smoke weed and that was when I was like 12, 13 and I’ve smoked weed like, ever since, near enough every day. Addicted to the point where I had a mate that had money, used to nick money, got to the point where we were buying ounces one week, would be gone by the next week. Fucking silly.’

‘The burglary I done, well, was for money and seemed like fun at the time but if I could turn back time I wouldn’t have done it. I was a bit short of money so went up there, see what was about, knicked this Samurai sword and I thought it would be worth a bit of money, my mate sold this camcorder and got some weed for that so…  I know a lot of drug dealers that take stolen goods so y’know I was straight on the phone, within five minutes I’d sold it.’

‘I’d take back doing it now. Promise you I would. I look back now and I think fucking hell, what an idiot.’

‘Year 7 (Aged 11,12) I got picked on loads. I kept getting beaten up, got to the point where I was put in hospital. I remember one time one of these boys started on me and got to the point where it just drove me insane, I couldn’t handle it. I just fucking went mad. So I started fighting back for myself, started standing up for myself a lot more and that’s when a group of these boys, they were like, no one would fuck with them, they came over started kicking the shit out of me, bruised all my ribs and fuck, it was horrible.

Since then a lot have people have like given me a lot more respect as though as you took a beating from them, blah blah, I wasn’t proud of it at the time, I was pissed off, I didn’t want everyone to respect me ’cause I got beaten up. I wanted everyone to like me because of who I am.

I was getting into quite a lot of trouble in my lessons at the time and a lot of teachers by year 9 when I got kicked out. [If] I ran to the teachers and said someone slapped me round the face, they’d not believe me. So I kind of gave up on the teachers and started fighting for myself.

Year 8 I started getting in with the year 11s and they were the hardest bastards at school so ever since then no one fucking touched me. Then I got kicked out, went into Dereham more often and it all started again really. I think they call it a managed move as the headmaster didn’t want it on record that one of his students had been permanently excluded from his school but I did find it better after that as I got more attention, more one to one meetings.

I do blame it on my Mum in a lot of ways but you know, at the end of the day, it was me. I did it. Ever since I got myself into drugs really it’s been non stop shit. Everything I do just has to revolve around drugs. I am addicted to it.’

‘My Dad says a lot of my troubles started with my Mum. She lives down in London and that’s why we moved down here. It was me, my Dad, my Mum and my little sister. Mum at the time hated my Dad.

One day, I was three, my Mum ended it with my Dad and left me on my Dad’s doorstep for like four hours just crying, it was raining, she hadn’t knocked on the door to tell anyone I was there or anything.’

‘It was a few days after my birthday when my Dad bought me a bike for my birthday. I must have been five or six or something. I was out the front of the house riding my bike during the day. Mum’s then husband turned up and even though it pains me to say it, I got kidnapped and taken back to this house. There was four blokes in the car, they jumped out grabbed me, chucked me in the car and sped off.

So I got taken back to this house where my Mum was, there was like bags of coke on the side, it was horrible, it was a drug dealers house you could tell. There was heroin needles all over the place it was fucking horrible.

I was kidnapped for two weeks I think. My Dad didn’t know nothing, didn’t know where I had gone until my Mum rang him on the second week and said ‘We have Bruce’, then Dad came for me straight away.

My Dad had a lot of mates around London and he went and got them and they came to this house where I was and just as my Dad pulled up, one of the men in the house put a gun to my head. My parents argued over who should have me.

Dad got closer to me and the man with the gun said: ‘You come any closer and I’ll fucking shoot him’. Then there was this big fight. One of my dad’s mates grabbed me, chucked me in their car and we went back to my Dad’s.

Dad was terrified. You could tell from the look on his face, he was crying and everything, it’s still to this day the only time I’ve seen my Dad cry. But, well, that’s why I don’t see my Mum that much now.

We moved up here Christmas day because my Dad could not take it anymore.

When I was at Primary school I started to forget about it all, just began to get over it then at High School it all kicked off again and brought it all back. I started to have nightmares about the kidnapping again.’

Day before court appearance.

‘I’m quite nervous. One of my Dad’s mates had been in Juvenile prison at like 14 and within a week he’d had the fuck kicked out of him by kids of 12, 13, they just beat the fuck out of him. You’d not expect it but there’s so many double hard bastards in there that just don’t give a fuck. Some of them, you’d just look at them and bang, smack you straight in the face. It’s just how it is apparently.’


Bio: J. A. Mortram has been exhibited, awarded and published for his work documenting marginalized people in East Anglia, United Kingdom within the documentary series Small Town Inertia. Working in his family home as a carer, his documentary work is self-funded.