APPRENTICE star Sharon McAllister has spoken of her relief after her civil court jail sentence was finally quashed – and revealed how her time in Cornton Vale prison has devastated her life.
Businesswoman Sharon believes the stress of being wrongfully imprisoned for contempt of court led to her father’s death last year.
The first Scot to appear on The Apprentice when it hit TV screens in 2006, Sharon went on to have a high-flying career until her private life started to crumble.
A family dispute led to a civil court action. Then, a lawyer’s failure to properly conduct her case and a string of allegations against Sharon – which she strongly denied – led to her being handed a three-month jail sentence for contempt of court.
Now, however, we can reveal that the contempt of court finding and her time in Cornton Vale have been quashed following an appeal.
Last night, Sharon told of her “frightening” time in prison and revealed how it shattered her successful career, led to her family being shunned and had a devastating impact on her father’s health.
She said: “People like me get caught up in a system that’s broken.
“Everyone wanted to make an example of me because I’d been on television and the system is in pieces. My lawyer’s failures left me wide open.”
Sharon was led away from court sobbing and in handcuffs in May 2015 after Sheriff Fiona Tait wrongly accused her of “flagrant contempt of court”.
However, it later emerged that her lawyer had falsified a key document which appeal court judges agreed had tainted the sheriff’s opinion of the reality TV contestant.
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal found the lawyer guilty of professional misconduct. However, despite agreeing the false document played a key role in Sharon being found in contempt of court, the lawyer was simply “censured”.
The lawyer failed to respond to requests to comment on the case.
Sharon, 42, said: “I had done nothing wrong, but ended up in prison for mistakes made by legal professionals.
“It was scary. The woman in the cell below me started a fire. I could hear the fire engines and commotion. I was a civil prisoner, who had never been accused of any crime but I was treated like I was a criminal.”
Within a couple of months her dad John was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He died just a few days before his 66th birthday.
Sharon served 15 and a half days in Cornton Vale before being granted leave to appeal. She believes the stress of what happened to her played a major part in her dad’s illness.
“He was diagnosed too late. I believe if he hadn’t been so worried with this weight on his shoulders, he’d have had more time to go to a doctor earlier and he wouldn’t have died last year.
“People were unkind to my mum and turned away from my dad. It’s sad.”
Sharon is angry that contempt of court and the threat of jail are sometimes used as a “weapon” against women in civil actions.
She added: “It’s so hard to get your life back.
“No one stopped to think that this wasn’t right.”