A prison officer has been handed a suspended sentence after she was pictured cuddling with an inmate who was on day release from an open prison.
Gemma Brean, 35, was in a relationship with convicted drug dealer Stuart Mark Davies for six weeks and even introduced him as her “boyfriend” to her teenage daughter before the romance was uncovered.
On Thursday, a court heard the single mother-of-two met Mr Davies, who was serving a five-year sentence for possession of class A drugs, while she worked at the Category D HM Prison Prescoed in Monmouthshire.
She used email accounts of friends to send messages to the prisoner, who she had direct control of in her employment training and education role, and arranged to meet up with him when he was allowed out on home leave.
Prosecutor Steven Donoghue told Cardiff Crown Court their relationship was revealed on November 1 last year when Mr Davies’s ex-wife was directed to a photo of him and his “new girlfriend” after it was posted online.
Mr Donoghue said: “That photograph is of the prisoner with the defendant, reclining on a settee, and they’ve got their arms around each other.
“That photograph was taken on that weekend when he was out of the prison.”
The ex-wife, having found out who the woman was, reported the photo to her own probation officer, who in turn reported it to the prison and an investigation was launched.
Brean was suspended from duty before being arrested by police, and claimed in an interview with them that the encounter on the settee had happened “by accident” after the pair turned up at the same place.
But messages found on her phone showed they had been in a relationship since the beginning of October, with a series of messages sent to him from the phone using the email account of her father’s girlfriend.
Another account belonging to a friend was even used to email the prison’s IT support unit to complain that messages sent from the prison site were not being downloaded properly.
Brean sent one message to her 15-year-old daughter to say she had a “new boyfriend” with a man called “Mark”, sent on a weekend when Mr Davies was on home leave and the prison officer was off duty.
Mr Donoghue said there was no evidence the relationship was sexual, nor had it been used for financial gain or to bring illicit items into the prison.
Brean eventually resigned from her job on December 1 last year, before pleading guilty to misconduct in a public office.
Nicholas Gedge, defending Brean, said the former hairdresser was “good with people” which “may be one of the factors which led her into this situation”.
He said: “I get the impression she is somebody who has an intrinsically empathetic nature. She said she preferred the pastoral side of prison work. That job she had was all about helping people.”
Mr Gedge added: “She acknowledges that perhaps she was too friendly with prisoners, against that backdrop of being in employment which is to help people who are less advantaged.”
Judge Michael Fitton told Brean: “The warning signs should have been coming up. You saw them and ignored them. You got into something deeper than you could manage.”
Brean, from Cwm, Ebbw Vale, was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and given a 9pm to 7am curfew order on an electronic tag for four months.