UK

Operation Elveden: Ex-prison officer jailed for celebrity tips

George Michael Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Reggie Nunkoo sold stories about celebrities including George Michael

A former prison officer has been jailed for 10 months for selling "salacious gossip" about celebrity inmates to two national newspapers.

Reggie Nunkoo, 41, was paid £1,650 by the Sun and Daily Mirror for stories including one on singer George Michael.

The Londoner admitted conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Ex-Met Police call handler Rosemary Collier, 40, from Devon, was given a four-month sentence suspended for 12 months for misconduct in public office.

She had also pleaded guilty to the offence.

Both were prosecuted as part of Operation Elveden - the Met Police investigation into alleged inappropriate payments to police and public officials by journalists.

Marriage in crisis

The court heard how Nunkoo, of Walthamstow, worked at London's HMP Pentonville when he was paid £600 by the Mirror for information he gave to reporter Graham Brough about Jade Goody's widow, Jack Tweed.

The information resulted in a story about Mr Tweed being placed on suicide watch and a prison break in 2009, the court heard.

Nunkoo went on to approach the Sun and handed journalist Neil Millard details about Mr Michael "crying in his cell", after the singer had been jailed in 2010 for crashing his car while under the influence of cannabis.

He was also paid in 2011 for a Sun article headlined, "Acid thug hid drugs in his cell", about Daniel Lynch, who was convicted of arranging an acid attack on TV presenter Katie Piper.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The pair were prosecuted as part of the Met Police's Operation Elveden

In mitigation, Jonathan Page said the information Nunkoo handed over was "more salacious gossip that anything that undermines security".

The offences were committed against the backdrop of a "a marriage in crisis", he said, adding that Nunkoo's wife had demanded "a better lifestyle" than he could provide on his wages.

However, the Common Serjeant of London, Judge Richard Marks QC, said his conduct had amounted to a "flagrant breach" of the terms of his employment and a "gross breach of trust".

The judge also heard how Collier, who worked at the Met's central communications command in east London, had been paid £700 for information about a confidential police briefing note about potential terrorist attacks.

It led to a story in the Sun headlined "Mumbai Raid Fear for Xmas Shoppers", the court heard.

'Private financial gain'

Both journalists, Mr Millard, 33, of south Croydon, and Mr Brough, 54, of south-west London, were cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office following a trial last month at the Old Bailey.

Mr Brough said he did not believe Nunkoo was a prison officer at the time and he only give him "limited information" for his stories.

Det Ch Supt Gordon Briggs - who is leading Operation Elveden - said both Nunkoo and Collier had leaked confidential information to journalists "for their own private financial gain".

"When public officials act in this way, they betray the trust placed in them and undermine public confidence, their dishonest actions harm the public interest and merit criminal sanction," he said.