A SENIOR prison officer who fell in love with a career criminal and helped him when he was behind bars has herself been jailed for three years.
Rebecca King, 33, did not tell the authorities she had begun an affair with drug baron David Turnbull and put credit on a mobile telephone he used from behind bars, Teesside Crown Court heard.
When she was arrested officers found £9,490 of his cash, including some stuffed in a Vivienne Westwood handbag, in the loft of her mother’s home.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton jailed the mother of two daughters, aged six and 11, saying: “It was not foolishness, it was palpably worse. It was palpably wrong and it was palpably criminal.”
King met Turnbull while working at HMP Wealstun, near Wetherby, West Yorkshire in 2006 but the prosecution accepted that their affair started after his release, in 2008.
The romance, said to have started while she was vulnerable, continued after he was arrested and held on remand in 2011 for his part in a large-scale cocaine, cannabis and heroin conspiracy.
He has since been jailed for almost nine years.
King, from Selby, North Yorkshire, bought top-ups for the phone at local supermarkets then sent him the activation codes via texts.
The court heard there were 1,600 mobile phone contacts between the two while he was at Holme House Prison, Stockton, Teesside.
The judge accepted that prison officers deal with the “most dishonest and most skilled at manipulating others” but said that they are trained in handling them.
While recognising her hard work in advancing from being an administrative assistant to the role of senior prison officer in nine years, he said prison officers are trusted by the public.
“You broke that trust,” he said.
The couple went on holiday to Mexico in 2010 and the £2,300 bill was paid in cash, the court heard.
Christopher Knox, defending, said King’s probation officer stated that the defendant became blinded by love.
“This woman became involved in the relationship and she should have disclosed it,” he said.
“She got dragged further into it.
“(The probation officer) is satisfied this was simply a woman who fell quickly in love with this particular man.”
The judge said buying top-ups for the career criminal’s phone is a serious aspect of the case.
Phones inside prison allow inmates to carry on their criminality, undermine discipline and are a “corrosive” influence, the court heard.
“You are an intelligent woman. You are a hard-working individual,” the judge said.
“You were a senior prison officer and you got there by working hard and doing well for yourself. You should have been well aware of the criminality and the dangers of what you were doing.”
The judge acknowledged that time in jail for an ex-prison officer would be hard and that the sentence would have a serious impact on her children.
“I am not prepared to accept you acted throughout this time blindly. You knew full what you were doing.”
She has resigned from her job, the court heard.
After the case, Detective Sergeant Mick Wilson of Cleveland Police said: “It is always sad to see public sector employees involved in corruption and I hope that today’s result stands as a deterrent for those considering this type of criminality.”
King admitted concealing criminal property, knowing or believing it was his benefit from criminal conduct, and three charges of misconduct in a public office at a previous hearing.
She looked shocked as sentence was passed.