The shocking real world true story of life behind today’s prison gates

By Mark Leech

This is a brutally honest account of life on the other side of the prison gate – it comes from a senior manager, working in a prison today where the majority of prisoners are serving long term sentences; this person has been in the Prison Service for over 20 years, and I have known them personally for more than a decade.

Here is what he, or she, thinks of life on the landings, and of the Prison Officers Association too.

Be prepared for a brutally honest account.

I have four new officers on First improvement warnings for sickness, they are all still in their Probationary period and with work-related stress being the main factor.

One of them has childhood mental health issues, he actually has his own mental health team, and he can’t cope.

Another has bouts of anxiety and depression.

A third has just had a wobble and doesn’t look like he will survive.

And a fourth who is always crying.

We may be getting bums on seats, unfortunately they’re not the right bums.

My staff go sick at the drop of a hat.

Instructors are told to get them through whatever…..

Our biggest issue outside of self-harm and violence is staff related issues with NEW staff.. in my opinion less than 10% of staff are good, sadly the rest are in it just for a job.

We need to bring back Boards, where potential staff are interviewed on their suitability – let me say, many are NOT suitable and we spend too much time dealing with staff issues.

I’m pretty fortunate, my reputation gives me a degree of flexibility in terms of how I have managed my staff, they respect me, because I don’t sugar coat issues, I don’t blow smoke up their asses either.

I tell them every day what I expect, I give them SMART objectives, they get them done.

To be fair, when I’m not the Orderly Officer, I’m on my wing, I have an open-door policy and both staff and residents are continually in and out. I am everything that I disliked about my PO/CM when I was an officer.

The residents like it, I tend to sort out more issues, my staff like it because I take the pressure off them and I will stand on the landings and talk with the lads and in some cases the girls too, but unfortunately experience is very rare.

In time they will get experience, but sadly we don’t have that time.

You can’t blame the Governors; they’re doing a job with one arm and leg tied behind their backs.

All is clearly not well inside our prisons.

Getting more staff on the landings is vital – but nowhere near as important as getting the right staff on the landings and the evidence of this senior manager is that this is simply not happening.

In April 2017 when the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) was subject to yet another reorganisation and morphed into what is today HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), one of the consequences was that it lost control of prison officer recruitment – which was passed to the Ministry of Justice.

I have never understood the logic behind it and the consequences of it are that we are today clearly locked in a desperate scramble to get the number of officers on the landings back to where they should be; but this cannot simply be a numerical issue.

It has to be the right people, selected for the right reasons, capable of doing an extremely difficult job in the right way – HMPPS today has the task of training Prison Officers, surely they should be the ones who select those people in the first place?

A part of the problem is the Prison Officers Association, and it is true to say I have been a critic of this organisation for many years. Prior to the opening of the first private prison in 1992, POA entrenched industrial practices developed over decades meant that prison governors where held in an industrial headlock by the POA – forbidden from introducing any changes unless the local branch of the POA first agreed; the tail was wagging the dog.

If the local branch of the POA disagreed with a reform a prison governor wanted to introduce they entered what was called a Failure To Agree process, a series of negotiations that could go on for years, and often did.

Prior to 1992 prisons were run for the benefit of prison staff, not for prisoners or the public who paid for them. Many prisoners were locked up 23 hours a day, in appalling Dickensian conditions where many were subject to abuse and violence from prison officers.

Many officers were racist, openly displaying National Front lapel badges.

Some prisons at this time – 1990 – had their own social clubs, usually just outside the main prison gate, which served alcohol at lunchtime with the result some staff went back on duty in the afternoon having been drinking and creating a danger to themselves, their judgment and everyone else – and there was little the Governor could do about it.

If you are interested in what our prisons were really like just a couple of years before the first private prison opened in the UK watch this documentary.

When privatisation came along in 1992 finally those in charge in private prisons were freed from the industrial POA headlock. The union representing private sector prison officers signed no strike agreements, where their industrial issues were settled by discussing things like adults around a table.

It incensed the POA who staged walk outs and took strike action – in effect they cut their own throats.

Prison officers were then banned from striking under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Under Section 127 of the Act it is an offence for any prison officer to take, continue to take, or be induced by others to take,  any industrial action or to commit a breach of discipline.

Following the election of a Labour Government in 1997 this law was temporarily replaced in 2000 by a voluntary agreement between the government and the POA, which ruled out strike action as a way of solving disputes – but the POA failed to keep to their word.

After a “protest meeting” in 2006, the government responded by re-enacting the 1994 Act and legally banned strikes again at the High Court.

The High Court clarified in 2017 the effect of section 127, which the court said meant that POA members cannot withhold their “services as a prison officer”, or take any action that would be “likely to put at risk the safety of any person”.

This included withdrawal from what were voluntary services – like the provision of first aid and the taking of assessments to determine whether prisoners are at risk of suicide or self-harm – in addition to their contractual obligations; POA industrial action of any kind had been neutered – and it only had itself to blame.

The POA is a union locked in industrial practices that are 40 years out of date, they behave in many respects like the British Leyland Shop Stewards of the 1970s, believing, wrongly, that they are in some way a layer of prison management – which they are not and must never be.

The mentality of the POA is to criticise everything that the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS does, to see nothing good in any kind of reform for prisons, and many POA officials have all the negotiating skills of a brick wall.

Technically the POA represent the vast majority of prison staff – but in practice the only reason prison officers join the POA is for the legal cover it provides them with in cases of injury or disciplinary conduct hearings.

When it comes to the POA membership having faith in elected POA officials, the union’s pathetic election results speak for themselves.

Click to Enlarge

The results of the most recent POA Election of Union Officials in 2017 makes the point starkly.

In June 2017 the POA sent out 25,529 ballot papers to its Members to Elect a National Chairman and NEC officials – less than 10 percent of these ballot papers were even returned; 2,225 to be exact or just 8.7% – and of those, almost 200 ballot papers were spoilt – an effective way for even the 8.7% of POA Members who voted making the point they believed in none of those who were standing for office.

Mark Fairhurst was elected as National Chairman by just four percent (4%) of POA Members – FOUR PER CENT.

Put another way, Ninety Six percent (96%) of POA Members eligible to vote did NOT vote for him – yet he is their National Chairman – paid for by you and me, the taxpayer, who funds his salary as a Prison Officer despite the fact that half the time he doesn’t work as one at all.

I believe in trade unions, I fully support what they do, the vital functions they discharge and their right to represent their members – what I object to is that in the case of the POA it is the taxpayer who pays 100% of the salaries of POA union officials – yet gives them 50% time off from being the prison officers they are paid to be.

If they work half the time for their members, then it is their members who, deriving the benefits of their union work, that should pay half their salary.

The public deserves value for its money, and it simply isn’t getting it when we pay people to do a full time job but who only work half the time.

The POA are the first to claim that the chaos in our prison system has been caused by the loss of 7,000 experienced frontline prison officers, who were given generous voluntary redundancy packages – known as VEDS – in 2013/14.

What they are less keen to admit to is that it was themselves who did not object to the loss of these officers at the time – they did not ask their Members to vote on VEDS, they sought no mandate from them as to whether they should support or oppose these brutal staff cuts, quietly they went along with it – and the chaos we have today is the result.

In 2018 Phil Wheatley, the former Director General of the Prison Service explained it like this:

At this time the only way of making the required expenditure cuts, now that reducing the prison population was off the political agenda, was by reducing both the numbers of prison staff, at all levels – and also their cost.
The POA did not, as might have been expected, oppose this; lured by a promise that market-testing prisons would be abandoned and that generous early retirement terms would be offered to existing staff.

When I asked Mark Fairhurst, the POA National Chairman, in September 2018, why the POA had not opposed these disastrous staffing cuts, given the chaos that had resulted and which they surely must have seen coming a mile off he admitted the POA had whimpishly caved in, sacrificing the safety of their members on their altar of anti-privatisation.

“We had no choice” he wrote. “There was a gun to our heads.
“Accept it or go through wholesale market testing leading to a majority of private prisons.”

So there we have it – the POA were prepared to risk absolute chaos in our prisons,  where prison staff (their members) would be massively outnumbered, subject to increasing levels of assaults and all because the POA did not want to compete with private prisons.

And its not only their agreement to staff cuts that the POA seek to conceal, it is when their members are convicted in criminal courts of corruption that they remain tight-lipped too.

The POA refuses to issue any press statement condemning any prison officer convicted of corruption – whether it is bringing in drugs, mobile phones or knives, engaging in illicit sexual affairs with prisoners, stealing prisoners’  property, or forging documents that conceal the truth about deaths in custody – and there have been convictions of prison officers for each of these things – they say nothing.

On the other hand, when staff are assaulted by prisoners who are then rightly convicted and punished by the courts – the POA screams from the rooftops.

I don’t blame them for that, I condemn assaults on prison staff publicly too – but all I ask for is some degree of balance; you can’t condemn a prisoner for assaulting an officer on one hand, and yet say nothing at all when five prison officers are jailed for physical assaults on prisoners.

But that is what they do.

And it isn’t just that they are silent when prison officers are convicted of attacking prisoners either – the POA remain silent and complicit when prison officers attack other prison officers too.

The recent shameful case of Prison Officer Ben Plaistow, who suffered a year long series of homophobic assaults and humiliation by fellow prison officers and who recently won a damning case before an Employment Tribunal – he too has been totally ignored by the POA.

The vast majority of prison officers are decent, professional, hard-working honest people, doing a job I personally would not do for a £100K a year.

They each deserve the public’s support, they all deserve the public’s appreciation, but most importantly they all deserve professional industrial representation by a trade union that believes in decency and respect for everyone.

They deserve a trade union that isn’t constantly banging the table issuing  demands, holding out the prospect of unrest by taking prisoners hostage with threats of illegal strike action in order to force industrial concessions.

They deserve a trade union that recognises those tactics achieve nothing at all for anyone; least of all their increasingly demoralised membership whose refusal to vote for union officials in their tens of thousands, should ring POA alarm bells like nothing else ever could.

Prison Officer Chelsea Scott admits misconduct after relationships with two prisoners – at the same time

A woman prison officer has avoided going to prison despite having two affairs with male inmates simultaneously in Maidstone and Suffolk.

Chelsea Scott, 39, had used a previous name of Kendall Love to cover her tracks, a judge has heard.

She began the first relationship while she was still training and then began another after being transferred to Maidstone Prison last year.

Scott, of Tufton Street, Ashford is still in a relationship with ex-prisoner Stanislav Zampr, Maidstone Crown Court heard.

The mum-of-one pleaded guilty to two charges of misconduct while in public office and received a nine month sentence suspended for two years.

She will also have to do 200-hours of unpaid work for the community.

Her second affair was discovered when she was seen with Zampr in an enclosed kitchen area in the Thanet Wing at Maidstone where he shouldn’t have been.

Prosecutor Steven Mould said “trustee” Zampr was immediately “segregated” from other inmates while a search was made of his cell and officers then discovered “sexually explicit” letters.

Police later searched her home in Ashford and discovered that in January last year she had begun a relationship with another inmate at HMP Hollesley Bay – known As ‘The Colony’ – where she was being trained.

Officers also found photographs of Scott “in various state of undress”, the court was told.

Investigators also discovered a passport in the name of Kendall Love and she admitted to a senior officer she was aware that passing love letters to prisoners was wrong.

“She said that Zampr had helped her when she was new to the wing and she saw him more as a colleague than a prisoner and all the letters she wrote to him were all fantasy,” the prosecutor added.

He revealed how in April she was assigned to Maidstone Prison and had started the second relationship while continuing with the other.

The prosecutor said Scott, who now works as a call handler, was questioned and admitted having “inappropriate relationships”.

He said she had breached the prison motto: “Don’t Cross The Line” and she admitted she had done wrong.

Max Reeves, defending, said Scott did not have sex with either of her lovers in prison but did meet the inmate from Suffolk on days he was allowed out.

A psychiatric report said she maybe suffering from a personality disorder which causes her to take risks.

She admitted two breaches of misconduct in office.

Scott wept in the dock as she was told by the judge sexual relations between prisoners and prison officers were “corrosive” and undermined authority.

Judge Martin Huseyin said she had also put herself at risk of blackmail and exploitation.

Three former Prison Officers jailed for abusing Detention Centre inmates

Three prison officers who subjected vulnerable teenagers to daily abuse at a detention centre in 1970s and 1980s have been jailed after a judge said their behaviour breached the public’s trust.

Durham Police carried out a huge investigation involving 1,800 witnesses into what happened at Medomsley Detention Centre near Consett, from its opening in the 1960s to its closure in 1988.

Christopher Onslow, 73, was convicted of misconduct in a public office as well as individual acts of violence against youths and was jailed for eight-and-a-half years at Teesside Crown Court.

He smacked one inmate around the head with muddy football boots which the teenager had not cleaned properly, leaving lasting scars, and caused another to fall from a cargo net and break his back by throwing rocks at the terrified, overweight boy when he got stuck.

John McGee, 75, was jailed for two years and 10 months following his conviction for misconduct in a public office and assault.

Standing more than 6ft tall, he punched a new, 5ft inmate in the face, who then soiled himself in fear, and McGee forced him to bunny-hop down a corridor to clean himself up.

Kevin Blakely, 67, was convicted after a trial of two counts of misconduct in a public office and was jailed for two years and nine months.

Judge Howard Crowson said pushing, shoving and even giving inmates a clip round the ear would not have constituted misconduct in the 1970s and 1980s.

But he said young offenders were regularly punched and stamped on as part of a regime of fear at Medomsley.

Two other officers, who were also convicted following a series of three trials, will be sentenced later this month.

The judge praised the victims’ bravery and the police for taking on the massive case, decades after the violent officers would have thought they had got away with their abuse.

He said: “For many years trainees from Medomlsey Detention Centre shared a common sense of grievance.

“Many had experienced brutality and violence at the hands of prison officers, but nobody wanted to hear about it.

“Those who had the courage to complain when they were released were either ignored or warned that to pursue the complaint would risk a return to Medomsley – nobody wanted to risk that.”

Judge Crowson said the country felt it easier to believe such institutions were places of appropriate discipline “where unruly boys were taught to behave properly”.

He said: “In those days any complaint was likely to be regarded as further evidence that the trainee was anti-social, that he had not learned his lesson and was complaining about appropriate treatment.”

He said the defendants, now elderly men, had been protected for 40 years by that false view, and by a culture of silence from colleagues, even those who were not violent themselves.

The wardens’ violence caused injury but its main aim was to “crush the will of trainees, to terrify them and make them feel powerless”.

He said it was only through the commitment and persistence of the victims and the dedication of the police that enough evidence was gathered to paint the true picture of what happened there.

Toby Hedworth QC, defending Onslow, said either the leadership at Medomlsey was lacking, causing lower ranked officers to believe what they were doing was right, or the leaders were now going unpunished and it was only the “foot-soldiers” who were facing the consequences.

He said: “That regime is now being examined in the light of wholly different values and attitudes from those which pertained in the 1970s and early 1980s.”

He said Onslow was the principal carer for his wife, and he had a much longer period of service working in prisons after Medomsley without any issue.

Caroline Goodwin QC, representing McGee, said he had many years of public service, adding: “He is a proud man and stands tall at every opportunity.”

Simon Kealey QC, for Blakely, said he had worked with recovering drug and drink addicts for years after finishing in the prison service where he had an unblemished career.

Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Green, of Durham Police, said the men had “abused their position to cause immeasurable suffering and lifelong damage to their victims”.

He added that more alleged victims of offences at Medomsley had come forward after the former officers’ convictions.

Of the victims whose allegations have already resulted in prosecutions, he said: “It has taken a huge amount of courage for these men to tell police what happened to them and we have worked hard to ensure they are listened to and supported throughout the investigation and subsequent court process.”

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.

Guilty! Prison Officer who made £20,000 from selling stories to the press

pizzeyA corrupt prison officer from top security HMP Belmarsh has been found guilty of leaking stories about celebrity inmates to the Daily Mirror over six years.

Grant Pizzey, 50, made nearly £20,000 from the tabloid for tips about “notorious” prisoners including Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs, hate preacher Abu Hamza and serial killers Steve Wright and Levi Bellfield.

He also passed on information to journalist Greig Box Turnbull about life at the high security jail which resulted in stories about Easter eggs, a laptop for a terror suspect and higher prices in the prison canteen, the court heard.

Pizzey was on trial at the Old Bailey charged with misconduct in a public office, with his wife Desra Reilly, 48, who was accused of aiding and abetting him.

The couple, from Widecombe Road, Eltham, south east London, denied wrongdoing but were found guilty after the jury deliberated for eight hours and 40 minutes.

The pair shook their heads as the foreman of the jury delivered the majority verdicts.

Using Reilly as the go-between, Pizzey passed confidential information to Mr Box Turnbull between December 1 2005 and January 31 2012.

Reilly first contacted both The Sun and the Daily Mirror in December 2005 with a story about So Solid Crew rapper Dwayne Vincent, stage name Megaman, being found with a mobile phone after he was attacked in Belmarsh.

In a message to The Sun, she wrote: “I have information regarding a security lapse at Belmarsh. Anyone interested?”

Sun journalist James Clothier got back to her, only to be told that the Mirror had been first, the court heard.

Reilly told him that she did not know how much she would be paid by the Mirror and that it would depend on who she dealt with in future.

As well as the “exclusive” about Megaman, she handed over another tip to the Mirror about a smuggled pen gun security scare at Belmarsh, the court heard.

Mr Clothier responded by promising to “top any offer for stories, particularly from the Daily Mirror”, jurors were told.

But Reilly went on to receive cheques and transfers to her bank account from the Mirror on 47 separate occasions.

Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said some were for stories while others were to keep the source “on side” and encourage more tips in the future.

The relationship developed to the point where Mr Box Turnbull could use Pizzey to confirm information he had heard elsewhere, such as whether James Bulger killer Jon Venables was at Belmarsh.

Pizzey, who worked as a prison officer at Belmarsh in south east London from 2000, knew he was not allowed to speak to the press, which is why he used Reilly, a railway cafe worker, as the contact.

When the couple were arrested in July 2012, they declined to answer questions in police interview.

The case hinged on whether or not Reilly alone had made money by passing on information she picked up from “casual conversations” with her partner.

Giving evidence, Reilly told jurors that she kept her contact with Mr Box Turnbull a secret from Pizzey after he “poo-pooed” the idea of going to the press.

She said that Pizzey would regularly “let off steam” and regale her with stories about the famous inmates.

The mother-of-four regarded Mr Box Turnbull as a friend who was genuinely interested in her life, but conceded: “Obviously he was just trying to get more information out of me in the end.”

Seeing her stories printed in the Mirror gave the waitress “excitement”.

She said: “When I got the first money, it was like a little bit extra for a couple of sentences and I thought there cannot be much wrong in doing that. It was something on the side. It was excitement in my life that I had never had before.”

Judge Richard Marks refused the couple bail and remanded them in custody until sentencing next Friday.

Afterwards, Detective Superintendent Larry Smith, from Operation Elveden, said: “When public officials behave in this way, they breach the trust and confidence placed in them by the public to act with honesty and integrity.

“In this case the evidence presented to the court showed that Pizzey was aware that in his role as a prisoner officer, selling confidential information obtained in the course of his duties was wrong.

“Using Reilly, he attempted to mitigate this by appointing her as the go-between. Their actions damaged the public trust and merit criminal sanction.”

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