A violent criminal said to have led the borough's most notorious gang has spoken out to admit: "I owe Croydon an apology."

Joland Giwa, who was subject to a failed Government deportation bid after his release from prison, now claims to have renounced the criminal past through which he gained the reputation of a violent and dangerous gang "general".

A judge last month ordered the 24-year-old's release from immigration detention, where he had been held for 56 months since the end of his two-and-a-half-year jail term for two robberies.

An Immigration and Asylum Tribunal ruled he should be bailed despite opposition from the Home Office, which had tried to deport Giwa but could not establish his country of birth.

Giwa's bail conditions require him to now live Newport, Wales - 145 miles from Thornton Heath, where it is alleged he wreaked havoc as commander of 80 members of the Don't Say Nothing gang.

Police say they believe Giwa was involved in "extensive criminal activity quite apart from the convictions which have been recorded against him".

But Giwa now claims he was never leader of the gang and insists he is a changed man looking to get his life back on track - starting by making amends with Croydon.

He said: "I do deeply want to say sorry to Croydon regarding all the negative things that I did. I do owe Croydon quite a lot, due to the bad press and the bad name I gave to the place.

"I would like to give back to the community or help other young kids in my position. It's something I have looked into - while being in prison I got on various courses and thought about my situation and how I can help those who might fall into my pattern.

"I will probably look into something like social work or youth clubs."

In a video posted on YouTube, used as evidence against him in a High Court hearing to determine whether he could remain in detention, Giwa boasts of being Don't Say Nothing's "general" and having "shanked" a man in the head.

But he now insists the video was a display of empty bravado and says he has relinquished all ties with the gang.

He added: "How could I possibly have been a gang leader when you have got people who are much older than me who were also affiliated with the gang?

"I was only 17 or so when I came to prison and you have got those who are of the age of 37 or 35 that were also associated with the gang, so I couldn't have been the general.

"It is unfair for anybody to say I am still involved with gangs. I have been in prison for such a long time and of course prison rehabilitates you and changes you in many ways.

Your Local Guardian: Joland Giwa posted photos of himself on Facebook while in jail

Joland Giwa posted a picture on himself on Facebook while in prison

"I was in prison from a young age -  I was a juvenile - and I came out as an adult. I have not spoken to or seen any of the gang members. I have tried to get myself away from that because I know exactly what the consequences are."

"Because of what I saw on DVDs or gang videos or whatever, I portrayed myself to be that person, but I wasn't really."

As a condition of his bail, Giwa is forbidden to return to London. But the former gangster said he would not return to the borough even if he could.

He said: "Croydon has not really done me any good, to be honest. I think I still owe Croydon a lot of stuff - first of all, an apology for creating all the havoc and stress in my area and for my bad behaviour.

"But going back to Croydon, I don't think that would help me with my future.

"I want to start my life afresh in a different place. I couldn't give you a location where I should be, but wherever I will be I will treat it with respect and carry myself in a mature manner."

Linguistic experts called in by the Home Office to analyse Giwa's accent failed to establish his birthplace, with both Sierra Leone and Nigeria refusing to offer him citizenship.

Giwa sees himself as British, having moved here around the age of ten and studied at Haling Manor High School, Croydon College and Carshalton College.

He also fathered two daughters before being jailed in 2008, with both girls - now aged six and seven - still living in Croydon.

Your Local Guardian: Joland Giwa is jailed

Giwa in Croydon as a teenager

He said: "I came to this country without any passports or certificates. I was being told my immigration that I'm from Nigeria one minute, then the next minute I'm a Sierra Leonean. I don't know my birth parents so I don't know where I am from.

"It might be cheeky of me to say, but I do believe I am British. I have lived in this country longer than I have lived in any other country. I went primary school and secondary school and also college - everything I have learned is from this country.

"I can't speak any other language, so wherever else I am suppose to be from would be a difficult thing to deal with because I won't be able to speak to anybody."

He added: "Because I was detained, my relationship was destroyed so I don't really have much contact with by daughters. But I am trying to look for a way to see them."

Giwa this week wrote to Newport MP Paul Flynn to beg for forgiveness after the politician expressed "deep outrage and anger" at the former gangster being "dumped" in his town.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We vigorously opposed this individual's application for bail and we are very disappointed by the court's decision.

"He will be subject to rigorous monitoring, including an electronic tag, and we are continuing to fight for his removal from the UK."