A prison officer has been sentenced to two years behind bars for having an affair with a notorious criminal in jail.
Stephanie Smithwhite, 40, was an officer at top-security HMP Frankland, near Durham, where Curtis “Cocky” Warren – once named on the Sunday Times Rich List – was serving time.
During the trial Smithwhite denied that a hole found cut into her prison uniform was for a sexual purpose, but the sentencing judge said it was hard to imagine why else it was there.
Judge Jonathan Carroll said 56-year-old Warren was a “major league offender” who tried to manipulate Smithwhite into bringing contraband into the prison.
The judge said she was infatuated with him, as demonstrated by her tattoo of the name Curtis next to a rose.
The judge said: “Your conduct represents the very most grave breach of trust placed in you.”
Smithwhite, from Boldon Colliery, South Tyneside, appeared before Durham Crown Court last month to admit two counts of misconduct in a public office.
One count related to her sexual relationship with Warren, which is said to have taken place between June and December 2018, while the second related to her not reporting that she knew Warren had access to a tiny “prison phone”, believed to be a handset little bigger than a £2 coin.
Warren, 56, a Liverpool-born gangster who became an international drug trafficker worth tens of millions, moved to the Netherlands in the 1990s and was jailed there after a police raid on his villa found a huge haul of drugs and weapons.
He was later convicted of manslaughter after he got into a prison yard fight with a Turkish inmate.
Weeks after his release, he was arrested in Jersey for a major drug smuggling plot and was told in 2013 that he faced another 10 years in prison if he did not abide by a £198 million confiscation order.
Suspicions about Smithwhite’s relationship with Warren were raised by staff and a surveillance operation started.
She was seen passing a note to the prisoner and getting one back.
She tried to eat her note when officers went to retrieve it from Warren, the court heard, and the notes were found to be highly sexualised.
She tried to deny having a physical relationship with Warren.
Police searched her home where they found more notes and a copy of his autobiography called Cocky, The Rise and Fall of Curtis Warren, prosecutor Rupert Doswell said.
Police also found 450 further notes at the business of one of her relatives, many of which contained sexual fantasies, and found a white Samsung in her car that was used to call a number used by Warren in Frankland Prison.
Smithwhite told detectives she was “devastated” but hoped for a chance the relationship could continue.
Andrew Nixon, for Smithwhite said she made a “catastrophic error of judgment”.
He said: “This is a woman who has fallen in love with the wrong person.”