Crime reduction
Violence reduction

Stu's story

2. Stu Otten (Now) Photo


Stu Otten, Causeway’s Head of Criminal Justice Services, knows how important second chances can be.

As a child and young teen, Stu endured such relentless bullying from other children, that by 12-years-old he was suffering from severe trauma, stress, and mental health problems.

In an effort to find support and brotherhood, he signed up to local kick-boxing lessons, which not only helped boost his self-esteem, but also gave him an outlet for his anger.

Between the ages of 12 to 17, Stu’s kickboxing classes became his whole social life, and a place he found acceptance and friendship.  He was in awe of the older members who appeared to live a lifestyle filled with expensive clothes, watches and cars, but most importantly of all – commanded the respect of others.

At 17-years-old, one of the kickboxing elders found Stu work as a doorman around the pubs and clubs of Liverpool.  This introduced Stu to a dark criminal underworld, and he began dealing cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis.

Along with the drug dealing came a world of gangs and violence, and Stu was often the person used to threaten others and pursue them for drug money. 

In return, Stu faced violence from rival gangs, and he began keeping knives, hammers and machetes in his home for protection.

Moving into his twenties, Stu found himself in and out of custody, and constantly surrounded by violence.

Alongside this, he was becoming distant from his family, and the relationship with his partner broke down. He hit a point of mental health crisis and began feeling suicidal.

Stu knew something had to change. He didn’t want to live the life he’d been living, so he stepped away from the world of crime and drugs, and started again. 

At 23, he began working in a care home, and found that he loved helping others.  He studied social work at Liverpool John Moores University, and on graduating, specialised in supporting those dealing with trauma and mental health issues.

In 2016, Stu began working for Causeway, and soon recognised a need for survivors of trauma and exploitation to be helped to break cycles that can lead to criminality.  This led to Stu spearheading a new set of crime reduction services at the charity, which have since grown to incorporate five different support programmes that have helped thousands of people address the roots of their behavior, and break the cycles of violence and incarceration.

Stu said: “People underestimate the link between trauma and criminality.  I deeply regret what I’ve done in the past, however I use that every single day to drive forward the work I do now.  We all want a world without crime, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand.  We need to understand and work closely with those who commit crime to break those cycles, and build a better world for everyone.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t once given that chance for change.”