UK

Operation Elveden: Ex-prison officers jailed for tabloid leaks

Grant Pizzey and his partner Desra Reilly in 2013 Image copyright PA
Image caption Married couple Desra Reilly and Grant Pizzey pictured leaving the Old Bailey together in 2013

Two former prison officers have been jailed for leaking information about inmates to newspapers.

Grant Pizzey, 50, who worked at HMP Belmarsh, was jailed for two years for misconduct in a public office.

He had made nearly £20,000 from tip-offs to tabloid papers, including stories about train robber Ronnie Biggs and radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri.

His wife Desra Reilly, 48, also a former officer, was sentenced to 12 months for aiding and abetting him.

Pizzey and Reilly, both of Widecombe Road, Eltham, south-east London, were investigated as part of Operation Elveden, the Met Police's investigation into journalists' dealings with public officials.

'Prison go-between'

Sentencing at the Old Bailey, Judge Richard Marks QC said Pizzey's was one of the worst examples of misconduct out of some 30 officials to be dealt with under Operation Elveden.

Pizzey had passed on information about life in the south-east London prison, which resulted in stories about Easter eggs, a laptop for a terror suspect and price hikes at the prison canteen, the court heard.

He also passed on details about convicted murderers Steve Wright and Levi Bellfield.

Prosecutors said he used his wife as the go-between to send information to a journalist at the Daily Mirror over a six-year period.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Pizzey passed on details about high-profile inmates, including radical preacher Abu Hamza, seen here in 2002
Image copyright Suffolk Police
Image caption Pizzey also sold stories about Steve Wright, former pub landlord convicted of murdering five prostitutes in 2006

Almost £20,000 was paid in 47 payments via Reilly's bank account from the newspaper, the court heard.

Mother-of-four Reilly claimed her husband knew nothing about her relationship with the Daily Mirror journalist.

However jurors found them both guilty following a trial at the Old Bailey.

The defendants' families were in the public gallery and wept as they were sent down.

Sentencing, Judge Marks QC said Reilly had told jurors a "tissue of lies".

To Pizzey, he said: "For a prison officer such as yourself, Grant Pizzey, to effectively have two paymasters and to be acting as a paid informant or mole unquestionably harms the public interest in a significant way and it is damaging and detrimental to the proper running of the prison."

'Motivated by debts'

In a separate case, Mark Alexander, 40, of Albion Road, Port Talbot, South Wales, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for selling tips to a journalist 11 times.

On one occasion, he sold a story about the mother of Baby P - who died at the age of 17 months in 2007 after being subjected to months of abuse - giving birth in prison.

He also leaked information about a former royal aide jailed for murder being placed on suicide watch.

Prosecutor Stuart Biggs told the court how, unlike the two other defendants, Alexander had admitted conspiracy to commit misconduct with a Daily Mirror reporter and a further count of misconduct in relation to his dealings with The Sun.

In a police interview, Alexander accepted what he had done and explained he was not earning very much and had debts.

However, the judge told him: "I regret to say that in my judgment the seriousness of your misconduct is such an immediate custodial sentence in inevitable."

More on this story