Tyne & Wear

HMP Low Newton prison officer jailed over inmate affair

A prison officer who had an intimate relationship with an inmate has been jailed for six months.

Melissa Priestley, who worked at HMP Low Newton near Durham, also gave her female lover special privileges, Durham Crown Court was told.

At an earlier hearing Priestly, 33, admitted misconduct in public office.

The judge acknowledged her otherwise "impeccable character", but said he was unable to consider a suspended sentence as the offence was "just too serious".

The court heard the affair was uncovered when Leonie Kinnish, who was serving a five-year sentence for robbery, had her cell searched following a tip off.

Paul Reid, prosecuting, said rumours began circulating about the pair who had been spotted "kissing and fondling" each other.

Letters from Priestley spoke of her "very considerable affection".

Mr Reid said: "It would appear from the content of the letters that the affection was reciprocated."

'Couldn't help herself'

She was also said to have allowed Kinnish to spend longer out of her cell than she should, and brought her small gifts.

Ros Scott Bell, defending, said nothing more than kissing had taken place, and there was no intimate sexual relationship, showing "a degree of restraint on behalf of the defendant," who hoped things would develop further when Kinnish was released.

Ms Bell said: "She's extremely remorseful for what she has done. This is a case where her heart was put before her judgment.

"She knew the relationship to be prohibited. What she would say is she couldn't help herself.

"This was not a situation where she deliberately sought someone out, it was a mutual attraction."

Priestly, from Newton Aycliffe, was suspended when the relationship was discovered, and Kinnish, from Lancaster, was moved to Styal Prison in Manchester.

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