Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Inmate Romance Sees Ex-Prison Guard Jailed

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Inmate Romance Sees Ex-Prison Guard Jailed

Article excerpt

Byline: Hannah Graham Reporter

AFORMER prison guard who became "infatuated" with an inmate has been handed a six-month jail sentence.

Melissa Priestley struck up a relationship with Leonie Kinnish, who was serving five years for theft, while she was employed at HMP Low Newton.

The 33-year-old had worked at the Country Durham prison for nine years when she fell for Kinnish in October 2015.

Durham Crwn Court heard the affair involved "kissing and fondling", but had not become an "intimate sexual relationship". Kinnish was also seen to lift her top and expose her breasts to the defendant.

After fellow inmates complained about the tryst, a search of Kinnish's cell revealed love letters from Priestley.

The letters spoke of the pair's desire to start a sexual relationship after Kinnish was released. A note from the inmate to Priestley, also found in the cell, suggested the guard's feelings were reciprocated.

The smitten guard also gave Kinnish what Ros Scott Bell, defending, called "trinkets of the heart", including sweets and earrings.

The court heard there was no suggestion that Priestley had ever passed on illegal or dangerous items like drugs or mobile phones.

Priestley, of Sunningdale, Newton Aycliffe, was suspended from the prison in November 2015, and resigned in March this year. She began working in a factory, and started her own beauty business.

The former guard pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office, and was sentenced at Durham Crown Court yesterday. Paul Reid, prosecuting, said other prisoners alleged that Priestley had allowed the inmate special privileges, letting her out of her cell for longer than she should have while Kinnish was meant to be being kept in as punishment for an infraction, and locking her up after all the other prisoners when she could. …

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