Tyne & Wear

Prison officer jailed for Curtis Warren affair

Stephanie Smithwhite (centre) Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Stephanie Smithwhite was infatuated with the "major league offender" the court heard

An officer at a top security prison who had an affair with an inmate has been jailed for two years.

Stephanie Smithwhite had a relationship with drug dealer Curtis Warren while at HMP Frankland, near Durham.

The 40-year-old Smithwhite, from Boldon Colliery, had previously admitted two counts of misconduct in public office.

Durham Crown Court was told that she became infatuated by the "major league offender" and had a tattoo done of his name.

Liverpool-born Warren was serving 13 years for conspiracy to import drugs and then handed 10 more after failing to abide by a £198m confiscation order.

Image copyright States of Jersey Police
Image caption Curtis Warren was one of the UK's biggest drug dealers and even made it into the Sunday Times Rich List in the 1990s

Staff had become suspicious of her relationship with him, and an surveillance operation got under way, the court heard.

They were seen passing notes, which were highly sexualised, the court heard, and Warren tried to eat one from her when officers went to retrieve it.

It was also found they had called each other 213 times in three months.

When interviewed by detectives Smithwhite was said to be "devastated" but hoped there was an outside chance the relationship could continue.

Defending Smithwhite, Andrew Nixon said she made a "catastrophic error of judgment" and "fallen in love with the wrong person".

Smithwhite had denied cutting a hole in her uniform trousers for sexual purposes, but the sentencing judge said it was hard to imagine why else it was there.

The first misconduct charge related to the sexual relationship, said to have lasted between June and December 2018, and the second to her not reporting Warren had access to a smuggled phone.

Judge Jonathan Carroll said: "Your conduct represents the very most grave breach of trust placed in you."

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