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Prison officer from Orpington jailed for relationship with prisoner

PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 October 2019

Belmarsh prison where a female officer had a relationship with an imate. Picture: Google

Belmarsh prison where a female officer had a relationship with an imate. Picture: Google

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A woman prison officer has been jailed for having an inappropriate relationship with a serving inmate.

Close personal contact between prisoners and prison workers are forbidden.

The Crown Prosecution Service says prison officer Rachel Barnes, from Orpington, was jailed for misconduct in a public office after the illicit affair became public.

Barnes, 29, became involved with Sebastian Vassell, 28, while working at HMP Belmarsh.

Upon discovery of the relationship, Barnes was charged with misconduct in a public office and Vassell with sending unauthorised messages from prison.

They both pleaded guilty to the respective charges at previous court hearings.

At Croydon Crown Court on Thursday, October 10, Barnes was sentenced to 10 months in jail, and Vassell was ordered to do six months concurrent on each charge, but consecutive to the sentence he is currently serving.

Suspicions were first raised when Barnes started going missing for extended periods whilst on shift at Belmarsh.

What's called a challenge meeting was set up by her bosses at the jail during which she denied any wrongdoing.

However, the CPS said once she was informed management had CCTV of her during the periods she had been going missing, Barnes became emotional and confessed to having a relationship with Vassell, who is from Greenwich.

Preetpaul Dhillon, from the CPS, said: "Barnes was working in a high security prison in a position of paid employment amongst dangerous lawbreakers. Vassell was an offender serving a sentence for serious firearm offences.

"On one occasion when Barnes was on duty, she was in a cell for 19 minutes engaging in inappropriate behaviour with Vassell. She hid from her colleague when he checked the cell on two occasions, clearly showing she recognised what she was doing was wrong.

"However, this was not a one-off incident. Rather, it was a pattern of behaviour in which she allowed a prisoner to have the use of a mobile phone and sent him repeated messages, some of which were of a sexual nature.

"Barnes' behaviour clearly falls into the category of wilful misconduct, and to such a degree that it amounted to an abuse of the public's trust. She will now have to face the consequences of her actions in relation to future employment opportunities."

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