A WOMAN who has turned her life around wants to use her experiences to reduce crime among young people in Flintshire.

Lynda Leigh, 58, is a pillar of the community in the true sense of the word.

As landlady of the George and Dragon in Flint she has transformed a pub that was facing closure due to issues with drugs and anti-social behaviour into the thriving heart of the community.

The Leader: Lynda Leigh has transformed the George and Dragon in Flint.

The rise in fortunes of the pub also mirrors how Lynda has transformed her own life.

In 2013, Lynda was imprisoned after being found guilty of a joint enterprise offence after a man was assaulted in her pub in 2011.

Having never been in trouble with the law previously, Lynda says it was being "in the wrong place at the wrong time" that saw her sent to HMP Low Newton that counted serial killer Rose West among its inmates.

After serving 18 months, Lynda was unable to return to Flint for another year.

But in 2016, unbeknown to her family, she agreed to become the licensee of the George and Dragon.

Determined to put her experiences behind the bar, as well as prison bars, Lynda was determined to do things right and get her life back.

She is now chair of Flint and Bagillt PubWatch and landlady of one of the busiest pubs in Flintshire.

She explained: "I still stayed in contact with people in Flint as all my friends and family were here. Then it came up that the George and Dragon coming up again. It was on the point of being closed because of drugs, ASBOs, and all the rest of it. It had a Final Closure Notice. I said to myself 'should I?' In the end I met Marstons, came down here and took it over. I came in on the Friday and have been here ever since."

Lynda added: "It's now the busiest pub in Flint. We have a beer garden which I've extended, and it's all families here. The police have not been here once for a complaint since I took over. It's a fantastic atmosphere among the staff, customers, everybody. There are so many people who said they'd never set foot inside here again because of its reputation, and now they're all coming back. It's brilliant.

"I had the Flint Sports and Social Club across the road for nearly 18 years, so I knew all the locals. I knew who the bad ones are, who were the dealers, and I had zero tolerance from day one. As soon as I came in I said it's strictly over 25s as there were younger ones I didn't know as I'd been away. I did the door myself. Then nice people started coming in again and slowly but surely we got the pub back."

The Leader: Jade Jones at the George and Dragon in Flint.

The George and Dragon also recently held a party for Flint's own Golden Girl Jade Jones before she left for Tokyo to compete in the Olympics.

Lynda added: "It's a real community pub, we do lots for charity and the community. We raised money for defibrillators to be put around Flint, we raised money to give meals to NHS workers and the hospitals during the pandemic, it's a proper community pub now. I love it."

She added: "All the licensees have been brilliant. Which is amazing because it's been really hard for a lot of them with the pandemic. Some haven't survived.

"You have to stand firm and not let them come into your pub. Do not let them deal. Do not let them carry knives. It's hard, but you have got to stand up for yourself or your business goes."

Although, she would not wish her prison experience on anyone she said it inspired her to turn her life around.

"I walked out of the house and said to my boys I'll be back by teatime - but I wasn't back for three years."

The Leader: The George and Dragon during the Euros.

Lynda added: "Before it, I let things happen that shouldn't have happened.

"I was in so much of a mess before all of this happened. My son sent me a Mother's Day card and he said "as much as I hate coming to see you in prison, the way we were going I would've been coming to visit your grave. That's how it was. I was in the gutter.

"To see myself now, I am so proud of myself.

"It's my community and I'd do anything for it. Everyone has welcomed me back, there have been no negatives. It's been brilliant."

Lynda has penned an award-winning book Prison for Beginners that available in hostels for women in the Manchester area.

It helps prepare people for the experience of prison.

The Leader:

"Prison is not the ball park they think it is", Lynda explained.

She added: "The book is a step by step guide from when you actually walk into the prison, telling you exactly what is going to happen to you. The Prison Service do actually give you a book but it's complete b*****ks. Nothing written in there is what happens to you. So my book is literally a guide - it is the good and bad, not that there's much good by the way.

But now Lynda's mission to help turn young people in Flintshire away from crime and negative behaviour before it is too late for them.

Having met with Inspector Stephen Roberts and Sgt Matt Subacchi, she is planning a crime awareness event.

After that, she has been invited by the Flintshire North Neighbourhood Policing Team to join them in delivering important messages to schoolchildren.

Lynda said: "I've named it a Crime Awareness Day. I've spoken to Flint Town Council and they are going to let me have the Town Hall for the day. It's going to be ex-offenders, police officers, prison officers there on the day, talking to young people about knife crime, arson and other issues facing our community.

"Then I'm hoping to work with Flintshire North Police to take the message into schools, which I think is something that is needed. There are issues with knife crime everywhere, it's not just Flint, and we want to get these kids together and make them realise that negative actions can have consequences."

She added: "I really want to push this crime awareness in conjunction with the police. I know young people can be helped before it gets to the point of them being in prison. I've seen what happens to these kids in prison and we can stop that. It they get sent to prison its just college, it's a university of crime. They can learn more in there, they can get more drugs in there. Once they are in prison, that's it, they're on a downward spiral.

Sgt Subacchi, who recently led a knife awareness campaign, said he was looking forward to working with Lynda.

He said: "Lynda has a great story, she comes across really well, and we want to work with her to attend schools together to deliver education to prevent offending among the youth of Flintshire North.

"This will tie in with the work we have done to address knife crime, domestic hate crime, and reduce anti-social behaviour."