Prison officer faces jail after admitting an inappropriate relationship with prisoner

Melissa Priestly - bottom right - faces jail
Melissa Priestly – bottom right – faces jail

A prison officer has admitted having a relationship with an inmate at the jail where she worked, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

Melissa Priestley, 33, worked at HMP Low Newton, a women’s prison in Durham where serial killer Rose West is locked up.

An investigation was launched following a tip off and it uncovered Priestley was having a relationship with a prisoner.

A search of the prisoner’s cell led to the discovery of letters suggesting an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.

During the police investigation, messages found on Priestley’s phone appeared to corroborate this.

She appeared before Durham Crown Court and admitted misconduct in public office. She will be sentenced next month.

John Dilworth, of the CPS North East, said: “For people to have confidence in the Criminal Justice System, they need to know that the law applies equally to all of those involved in the delivery of justice.

“The relationship between Melissa Priestley and the prisoner, over whom she had a professional duty of care, was wholly inappropriate.

“I would like to praise the swift actions of the prison authorities and police, once the initial reports of this relationship were received.

“Through their diligence vital evidence was preserved, assisting greatly in the Crown’s preparation of a robust case against Melissa Priestley.”

An official at Durham Crown Court said Priestley was bailed following the hearing.

Prison officer admits misconduct in public office

Mark Blake
Mark Blake

A former prison officer who leaked stories to the Sun about a Serco-run immigration centre in west London has pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office.

While working as a prisoner custody officer, Mark Blake, 42, from Slough, was paid nearly £8,000 for tips about the Colnbrook secure immigration removal centre in Hillingdon which resulted in 10 stories being published by the tabloid newspaper over three years.

As well as naming individuals including a 9/11 plotter, the articles highlighted issues with the way the centre was run with headlines such as “Wiis for foreign lags in UK jails”, “Gastrojail” and “We fund massages for foreign killers”.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey in March, a jury could not agree a verdict on whether Blake’s dealings with the Sun reporter amounted to misconduct.

The Crown Prosecution Service later announced it would pursue a retrial against Blake while dropping the case against his co-accused Tom Wells.

On the day the retrial was scheduled to start, Blake changed his plea to guilty after hearing that he may be spared jail to look after his two children.

colnbrook

Blake’s lawyer Graham Trembath QC had formally applied to judge Mark Lucraft QC for an indication on what the maximum sentence would be if the defendant changed his plea.

In his response, Judge Lucraft noted the impact of the harm caused by the stories was difficult to quantify although it did affect the reputation of Serco and the UK Border Agency and made external recruitment more difficult.

The court heard that Blake had admitted that his motivation was partly financial and partly public interest.

The judge also took into account various factors raised by Mr Trembath including the length of time since the offence and the fact Blake is the primary carer of his two sons, aged six and 13.

He concluded that ordinarily after a trial the maximum sentence would be 18 months in custody, but a guilty plea would reduce that to 15 months.

The judge told the court that a pre-sentence report would be needed to assess the impact of custody on Blake’s children which could provide “strong reasons” for suspending the sentence.

Blake, who sat in the well of the court, pleaded guilty to a single count of misconduct in a public office between January 2008 and December 2010.

He was granted conditional bail until sentencing at the Old Bailey on September 21.

Prison Officer jailed over tips to newspaper

Reggie Nunkoo sold stories about celebrities such as George Michael
Reggie Nunkoo sold stories about celebrities such as George Michael

A former prison officer has been jailed for 10 months for selling “salacious gossip” about celebrity inmates to the Sun and Mirror newspapers.

While working at Pentonville Prison, Reggie Nunkoo, 41, was paid £600 by the Mirror for information he gave reporter Graham Brough about Jack Tweed being on suicide watch and a prison break in 2009, the court heard.

Nunkoo, of Walthamstow, east London, went on to approach the Sun and handed journalist Neil Millard details about singer George Michael crying in his cell and being moved to a “soft” prison after he was jailed for driving under the influence of cannabis in 2010.

He was also paid in 2011 for a Sun article headlined, Acid thug hid drugs in his cell, about Daniel Lynch, who was convicted of arranging an acid attack on TV presenter Katie Piper.

The officer, who used the pseudonym Roy, admitted he was purely motivated by money and had pocketed a total of £1,650, the court heard.

When he was arrested in June 2013, police found photographs of celebrity Blake Fielder-Civil, ex-partner of the late singer Amy Winehouse, at his home, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said.

Nunkoo earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and was today jailed for 10 months at the Old Bailey.

The Common Serjeant of London said his conduct had amounted to a “flagrant breach” of the terms of his employment and a “gross breach of trust”.

He ordered Nunkoo to pay £1,000 he had gained through his crime plus a £100 victim surcharge.

In mitigation, his lawyer Jonathan Page said the information Nunkoo handed over was “more salacious gossip that anything that undermines security”.

He said the offences were committed in the context of a “picture of a marriage in crisis and a wife demanding a better lifestyle to be provided her than Mr Nunkoo could provide on his wages”.

As a result, the defendant, who has shown “genuine remorse”, is now back living with his parents in the bedroom he grew up in, Mr Page said.

At the same hearing, the judge handed a four-month sentence suspended for 12 months to Metropolitan Police Service civilian worker Rosemary Collier, who admitted misconduct in a public office in relation to her dealings with Mr Millard in 2010.

Collier, who worked at the central communications command in Bow, was paid £700 for information from a confidential briefing note on how to act in the face of a terrorist shooting incident.

It led to a story in the Sun headlined Mumbai Raid Fear for Xmas Shoppers, the court heard.

Collier, 40, of Tiverton in Devon, appeared tearful in the dock as the judge ordered her to pay the sum total of the money she gained amounting to £772, plus a £80 victim surcharge.

Mr Millard, 33, of south Croydon, and Mr Brough, 54, of south-west London, were both cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office following a trial last month at the Old Bailey.

In his evidence, Brough said he did not believe Nunkoo was a prison officer at the time and he only give him “limited information” for his stories.

Following the sentencing, Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent Gordon Briggs, leading on Elveden, said: “Collier and Nunkoo leaked confidential information obtained in the course of their duties to journalists for their own private financial gain.

“When public officials act in this way, they betray the trust placed in them and undermine public confidence, their dishonest actions harm the public interest and merit criminal sanction.”

Corrupt Prison Officer Earned 40K From Stories

venables

A News of the World reporter is facing jail after becoming the first journalist to be found guilty of paying a corrupt official for stories in the wake of Operation Elveden, the high-profile police investigation into newspapers – and it can only now be reported that a corrupt prison officer was also convicted earlier in the week.

The case revolved around the activities of prison officer Scott Chapman, 42, who made £40,000 from selling tips to various newspapers about James Bulger killer Jon Venables after he was sent back to prison in 2010 for child porn offences.

The NotW journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted on Wednesday of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office in relation to two stories following the trial at the Old Bailey.

Chapman and his ex-partner Lynn Gaffney, 40, were also convicted of misconduct in a public office, it can now be reported.

But co-defendant Daily Star Sunday reporter Tom Savage, who only knew Chapman as the anonymous source Adam, was cleared of wrong-doing.

In a courtroom packed with journalists and supporters, there were cheers and shouts of “yes” as Savage, 37, was found not guilty, followed by stunned silence as the jury foreman read out the verdict on the second reporter.

Chapman and the NotW reporter were given conditional bail until they are sentenced by judge Charles Wide on a date to be fixed.

The judge warned Chapman that he should expect his jail term to be counted in years, rather than months.

He told the NotW reporter he was conscious that the conviction was on the basis of just two of the stories that Chapman sold but he warned the journalist to be “under no illusions”.

To date, despite the conviction of public officers, the NotW journalist is the first to be found guilty of paying corrupt officials since police launched its multimillion-pound investigation into newspapers in 2011.

During the trial, the court heard that Chapman first contacted the Sun in 2010 after Venables was sent back to jail.

He went on to sell stories to a host of other newspapers including the NotW and the Daily Star Sunday, using Gaffney’s bank account to channel payments in exchange for a third cut of his earnings.

The tabloids then published a string of articles about Venables’ life behind bars which ranged from his efforts to lose weight to his love of Harry Potter books.

A security chief from the prison where he worked told the court that Chapman’s leaks had a “catastrophic” effect on the operation of the prison and left Venables feeling “very suspicious” of staff charged with his care.

But under cross-examination, it emerged that she had formed that view from secret talks with Venables in her search for the source.

The fact that she did not file a report on any of the meetings was a “serious breach of duty”, according to the defence.

In his evidence, Chapman said he first contacted the Sun about Venables because he was unhappy about the way he was given special treatment and then turned to other newspapers in an attempt to stop his Sun contact “pestering” him.

He told jurors he would send images of his prison ID card and a wage slip as confirmation to journalists, although there was no evidence he sent it to Savage.

But prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC queried the public interest of stories he described as “drivel” and “tittle tattle”, and asked Chapman: “Is it important that Jon Venables likes Harry Potter?”

In turn, Savage denied knowing the identity of his source, saying he used Chapman’s knowledge of Venables’ new name as a codeword to check his credibility.

He told the court it never occurred to him that he was in fact a serving prison officer but, if he had known, it would not have mattered “in the slightest”.

The NotW journalist also denied knowing who Chapman was or receiving images of his ID card and wage slip, despite an email to a NotW boss which suggested the opposite.

The defendant went on to insist that it was in the public interest that the newspaper exposed Venables’ “comfortable” lifestyle behind bars.

The journalist said: “This was a public interest story we were writing about Jon Venables, who abducted a two-year-old from a shopping centre, tortured and murdered him.

“He had been taken in by the Prison Service, given millions of pounds for a new identity, then repeat-offended and the Prison Service deal with it by making his life as comfortable as possible.”

Chapman, 42, and Gaffney, 40, of Corby, Northamptonshire, denied misconduct in a public office. Savage, 37, from south London, and the NotW reporter denied conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

For legal reasons, the convictions on Tuesday could not be reported until today.

ends

Prison Officer spared jail over illicit prisoner affair

Kathryn Finch
Kathryn Finch

An Isle of Sheppey prison admin officer who had a secret relationship with a gangster serving life for murder has been spared jail.

Kathryn Finch, 37, enjoyed dozens of illicit phone conversations with Carl Gordon while she was employed as an clerk at HMP Swaleside in Eastchurch.

Former gym instructor Gordon, now 27, was locked up in 2006 after stabbing Michael Campbell, 21, in Turnham Green, west London after a row over a vandalised car.

During his time at the category B prison, Gordon joined forces with 58-year-old arms dealer Paul Alexander – who supplied weapons to the gang behind the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones – to run an underworld gun ring from behind bars.

Gordon and Finch, of Bramley Way, Eastchurch, exchanged 25 phone calls and more than 60 text messages between April 13, 2011, and May 31, 2011 at Swaleside.

She admitted a single charge of unauthorised transmission of an image of sound by electronic communication from within a prison at Southwark Crown Court.

The mother-of-three has now been sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment – suspended for two years.
Judge Peter Testar said Finch has a weak personality and was probably targeted by Gordon for “his own purposes”.
Catherine Rabaiotti, defending, said Finch was suffering from depression, anxiety and alcoholism.
Finch was also given a 12-month supervision order with activity requirements to attend a women’s group and undergo training or work.

Holloway Prison Officer Jailed

Jailed Prison Officer Sophia King-Chinnery
Jailed Prison Officer Sophia King-Chinnery

A prison officer has been jailed after she enjoyed a secret lesbian romance with an inmate serving life for murder in a Holloway Prison.

Sophia King-Chinnery, 25, embarked on a relationship with Sarah Anderson after she was locked up at the notorious jail in Parkhurst Road for a minimum of 15 years for stabbing a cyclist to death in the street.

They exchanged hundreds of love letters in which Anderson addressed the prison officer as her “wife”, Southwark Crown Court heard.

King-Chinnery also allowed the inmate to keep a mobile phone for eight months so the pair could spend hours chatting to each other.

But the convicted murder was left distraught after hearing rumours that King-Chinnery was cheating on her.

After being confronted by bosses King-Chinnery accepted she had an “emotional relationship” with her jailbird lover after experiencing difficulties with her colleagues, but letters between the two were said to “make clear” the relationship was sexual.

King-Chinnery, of Hook Rise South, Surbiton, Surrey, admitted to two counts of misconduct in a public office and sobbed after she was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Friday.

Sentencing, Judge Michael Gledhill QC told her: “The fact of the matter is you were a prison officer and from the moment you became a prison officer, you were well aware of the rules, which don’t include having any sort of personal relationship with the prisoners that you are supposed to be looking after.

“I’m aware you will have a much harder time than others when serving your sentence but you brought that on yourself.”

Prosecutor Andrew Howarth said: “Clearly the relationship went further than an emotional one.’

“The letters made clear the nature of the relationship between the two women was sexual.”

The judge gave Anderson a concurrent three-month prison term after she admitted to causing the transmission of a sound or image from prison.

Jail Sex Abuse Claims Now Over 140

Paedophile Prison Officer Neville Husband
Paedophile Prison Officer Neville Husband

A police investigation into a young offenders’ centre in County Durham has now heard claims from more than 140 people that they were abused between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.

Detectives announced in August they were starting a new investigation into allegations young men sent to Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, were abused by staff, which led to 83 people coming forward.

That number has now increased to 143 and police chiefs said detectives were left shaken by some of the accounts they heard.

Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, of Durham Constabulary, said: “We said from the outset this was going to be a long and complex investigation which we fully expect will last at least another 12 months.

“So far we have been contacted by more than 140 former inmates of Medomsley, who have reported they were victims of either sexual or physical abuse at the centre between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.

“The accounts we have heard have been horrific and have shaken some very experienced detectives who are working on this.

“It is obviously distressing to hear from so many victims, but at the same time I am relieved they have shown the confidence in us to get in touch and allow us to help them.

“Our efforts are directed not just at establishing what happened in Medomsley over that period but ensuring the victims are left in a better place and get the support and advice they need.”

In 2003, a previous police investigation called Operation Halter led to the conviction of Neville Husband, a prison officer at the centre.

Husband was initially jailed for eight years after being found guilty of abusing five youngsters.

The publicity surrounding the trial then led to others coming forward and Husband was subsequently jailed for a further two years for these attacks.

After being released from prison he died from natural causes in 2010.

Medomsley detention centre

Back From The Dead Prison Officer Faces Jail

John-Darwin

The back-from-the-dead canoe fraudster, former Holme House prison officer John Darwin (left), from Hartlepool, is facing a return to prison after he left the UK without permission to meet a statuesque Ukrainian in a mini-skirt.

The 63-year-old was pictured in The Sun on a date with a blonde woman in her 20s in the town of Sumy, 1,500 miles from his home.

He was freed early on licence in January 2011 after being sentenced in 2008 to serve six years and three months for fraud.

That meant he was not allowed to leave the UK without Probation Service permission until all of his sentence was served.

A source close to the case said: “He is facing a return to prison for travelling abroad without permission.”

The Probation Service would not speak about individual cases but a spokesman said: “Any offender subject to licence supervision is required to gain permission from probation to travel outside of the UK; permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances.

“Any offender who travels without this permission will be subject to recall to custody.

“In these circumstances the Probation Service works closely with the police to implement the recall.”

It was believed Darwin was still in the Ukraine.

According to The Sun, Darwin and his date, a local woman named Anna, enjoyed a two-hour meal assisted by a translator, but the evening turned sour when he was confronted by a reporter.

The newspaper said Darwin first made contact with the woman over the internet.

He faked his own death in a canoeing accident in 2002 so his then wife Anne (right) could claim hundreds of thousands of pounds from insurance policies and pension schemes.

The couple, from Seaton Carew, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the swindle, which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons Mark and Anthony.

Darwin admitted fraud so received a slightly shorter sentence than Anne, who denied the offences. They have now divorced.

After faking his own death, Darwin continued to live in secret with his wife before they escaped to Panama to start a new life.

But in December 2007 Darwin walked into a London police station claiming he had amnesia and was reunited with his stunned sons.

His wife, then still in Panama, initially also claimed to be surprised – until a photograph emerged of them posing together.

Prison Officer Resigns: CPS Drops Charges

lizsurrey

A female prison officer based in Chelmsford who was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with an inmate will not face any further action and has resigned from the Prison Service.
During previous appearances at Chelmsford Crown Court Elizabeth Surrey, (above) an officer at HMP Chelmsford, had denied misconduct in public office over claims she had a relationship with a male inmate at the category B jail.
The Crown Prosecution Service has now withdrawn the allegations, the court confirmed.
The 25-year-old, from Chelmsford, had been due to stand trial next month.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Ms Surrey has now resigned from the Prison Service.”

Female Prison Officer Jailed For Inmate Relationship

yasemin

A female prison officer has been jailed for a forbidden romance with a jailed man, Scotland Yard said.

Yasemin Ozyukselen, 24, of Peregrine Road, Waltham Abbey, Essex, met the man while taking him from a prisoner van into Snaresbrook Crown Court for breaching his licence in April 2011.

The pair crossed paths again when he was up for trial later that year on charges including kidnap, rape and blackmail, and exchanged passionate messages while he served time in HMP Belmarsh.

Ozyukselen was today sentenced to 10 months at Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty earlier this year to misconduct in a public office for an inappropriate relationship and improper contact with a prisoner.

Officers from the London Prison Anti-Corruption Team first cottoned on to the long-distance affair after they received intelligence suggesting Ozyukselen was in contact with someone inside Belmarsh prison.

Records showed an inmate had called her mobile phone, and in recordings of their conversations officers heard the pair discuss meeting up when he got out of prison.

When she was arrested in June last year, Ozyukselen at first denied knowing the man or that he had her number.

But police discovered seven love letters and a scrap of newspaper in her bedside drawer with his name, “HMP Belmarsh”, a mobile number and the words “Give me your number if you want” written on it.

In the letters, the man referred to his sweetheart as “Yas”, “babe” and “princess” and answered her questions.

One, dated January 9 2012, read: “Wow you dressed up today I wonder who that was for EHEM EHEM.”

In the same missive he spoke of his jealousy at seeing her handcuffed to other men and said she had been kind and sweet to him, adding: “for eg, all the time you asked me do I need anything or am I OK.”

Another letter dated January 4 2012 read: “Since the day I came back from the day I got your number there’s been something about you I don’t know what it is… Honestly do you want to meet my family or are you just saying that you do.”

After the letters emerged, Ozyukselen claimed that he was a “crazy person” but admitted she had not told her employers that she was in contact with a prisoner, which broke the terms of her contract. She initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in November.

Detective Constable Rob Hinson said: “Ozyukselen’s position as a prisoner escort garnered huge public trust and she abused that by indulging in a forbidden relationship with a prisoner.

“The fact that she met this man knowing he was a prisoner, while she was at work and where it was her task to oversee him at times makes her betrayal all the more shocking.

“So the fact that she went on to lie to the police and the court about it initially, despite the damning evidence, is truly remarkable.

“Today’s sentence is well deserved and a warning to anyone else toying with abusing such a position of trust.”