Lisa is the first to admit that although she didn’t set out to break the law herself, she was happy to turn a blind eye to what her husband was involved in. Her time in prison made her realise that she was a stronger person than she’d thought she was and, her success has been even sweeter because she’s achieved it on her own.
When I left school at the age of 18, I suppose I would have been described as a bit ‘geeky’ or naive. I’d never had a boyfriend, didn’t smoke or drink and thought ‘weed’ was just something that grew in the garden.
Although I’d taken a few GCE’s, I hadn’t thought about going to college or university. I just wanted a job to tied me over until I got married and had babies.
My lack of experience with men meant that I fell for the first guy I met. He was an insurance broker at the company where I was a secretary. We were married after 6 months and had two children within 3 years. Had we taken longer to get to know each other we would have realised that we weren’t that well suited; neither of us were happy in the marriage and before long the verbal and physical abuse started.
It took me a while to pluck up the courage to leave but I did, taking my children to live with my parents. Over the next few years, I had a succession of relationships with unsuitable men; one was an alcoholic, one was married and one constantly cheated on me and was always borrowing money he never paid back.
Then around 2002, I met Ian. He was nothing like anybody I’d ever met – kind, considerate, a non-smoker and teetotal. He had his own business, own house, brand new car and he spoilt me and the kids rotten.
When he asked me to marry him and the children and I moved in with him, I thought I’d met my sole-mate. Before long, I started working with him in his property business – it seemed a sensible thing to do; I wanted to earn my own money and he wanted a business partner.
It was only after I’d started working with him that I realised that some of his business dealings were not as ethical or legal as they should be. When I challenged him about them he convinced me that there were loopholes in the law which all businesses benefited from. If I’m honest, I knew what he was doing was wrong but life was good and I didn’t want to rock the boat.
When he set up another company solely in my name, I thought it was odd but he convinced me that it was just for tax purposes. What he meant was – it was a tax dodge.
I won’t go into too much detail but needless to say, it didn’t end well. Ian (and I) had become part of a huge fraud, Ian was a totally willing participant and although I didn’t know what was going on, I can’t say that I was an innocent bystander. I chose to ignore the warning signs for the sake of a good life.
When the case got to court, we both received long prison sentences (8 years each). The final day in court was the last time I saw Ian; as far as I was concerned I was done with men, I had no plans to get involved with one ever again.
Whilst I was in prison I was left in no doubt that finding work with a fraud conviction would be difficult. I took advantage of every employability course I could and signed up for self-employment and business funding programmes. During the last year of my prison sentence I was able to go to an open prison and I got myself an admin job working for a media company. Sadly it wasn’t something that I was able to continue with on release as it was too far from home.
As it got nearer to my release date I concentrated on building up a network of contacts. They all knew my background and the work I’d been doing both inside the prison and out. I sent my CV to as many of these contacts as I could, confident that I stood more chance of getting a job with one of these than an employer who knew nothing about me.
I’m pleased to say that the time and effort paid off and I was invited to four or five interviews which resulted in two job offers which I had to choose between. The job I picked didn’t pay the most but on balance, I thought it had better career prospects and would also give me the opportunity to utilise some of the marketing skills I’d learnt at the media company. That’s a complete change of mindset to how I’d been prior to prison; previously I’d definitely have gone for the job with the most money but after living on £10 a week your priorities do change.
In the short time I’ve been working, I’ve been given a promotion and a small pay rise and, at my recent appraisal, it was agreed that my employer would fund a marketing course for me. I really feel that I’m making a valuable contribution to my employer’s business and my ideas and suggestions are really taken seriously. Life’s better than it’s ever been before and importantly, I’ve achieved it without any help from a man.
By Lisa (name changed to protect identity)
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