Prison officer had sex in cell with inmate and sent him Moonpig birthday card signed 'your babyface KK'

-Credit: (Image: ALAN DEMPSEY)
-Credit: (Image: ALAN DEMPSEY)

A young prison officer had sex with an inmate in his cell and set up a secret phone line to keep in contact with him, a court heard. Kate Southern, 26, brought food and vapes in for him - and sent him a Moonpig birthday card which she signed 'your babyface KK', a judge was told.

But their illicit relationship soon came to light after investigations began and Southern has now admitted a criminal charge of misconduct in public office.

Intelligence received by HMP Altcourse in Liverpool was confirmed when the prisoner's girlfriend told the prison's security manager she had just discovered he was in a relationship with Southern, said Chris Stables, prosecuting.

The court heard she rang Southern who admitted speaking to the prisoner, identified in court only as 'M'. His girlfriend recorded some of their calls and forwarded them to the security manager. Liverpool Crown Court was told the prison service began monitoring his phone calls and found a landline number had been added to his approved call list, allegedly to a niece. It was subsequently found to belong to Southern.

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Telecommunications enquiries revealed the landline number was set up to route calls to her mobile number. "Plainly this was done in an effort to try to evade detection,” said Mr Stables.

The prisoner was transferred to HMP Buckley Hall in Rochdale, but the court heard her calls to him continued. Mr Stables said: "In summary, the content of these calls was often of a sexual nature and intimate. It is clear that M and the defendant engaged in 'sex chat' and mutual masturbation.

"In addition, they could be heard discussing their relationship and future plans that they would make together. He suggested she leave her job so they could be together."

One conversation led to suspicions Southern had taken in a Kinder egg wrapped in clingfilm and hidden it inside her body, but neither the egg nor its alleged contents were found in his cell, the court heard. On January 5, 2022 she used his bank card to buy food and vape liquid at a nearby Tesco Express and CCTV footage showed her taking the shopping into his cell and leaving without it seven minutes later, added the prosecutor.

Pictured outside court -Credit:ALAN DEMPSEY
Pictured outside court -Credit:ALAN DEMPSEY

Based on comments in subsequent phone calls, Mr Stables said 'it is the Crown's case that there was direct sexual activity involving the defendant and M whilst the defendant was within his cell on this occasion'. He said: "During one call on January 8, 2022, there is clear reference to sexual contact having taken place."

Mr Stables said Southern had written M letters and she sent him two virtually identical birthday cards, the second paid for by him, with the first sent to Altcourse and the other to HMP Buckley Hall.

Following that Southern facilitated a three way telephone call with a florist and M ordered flowers for her. The prisoner also used his card for Southern to stay overnight at a Premier Inn in Manchester.

She was suspended on January 19, 2022 and resigned the next day, but continued to have regular contact with M and his mum in three-way calls until the end of the following month. Officers from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit's prison anti-corruption unit arrested her on May 25 that year and when quizzed, the defendant denied any involvement in a relationship with M and also denied taking prohibited articles into the prison.

Southern, who joined the prison services in August 2019 and underwent training, went on to admit 'a relationship of sorts' with M and perceived she would come to harm if she did not continue it, the court heard.

Mr Stables said that M, who is serving a lengthy custodial sentence, is awaiting a prison hearing, but the CPS decided not to prosecute him.

Southern, of Bishop Drive, Whiston, Merseyside, pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office between December 22, 2021 and January 20, 2022. Philip Tully, defending, said that at the time she committed the offence 'she was at a very low point in her life having just left an abusive and controlling relationship' "It is clear there was an element of manipulation by a serving prisoner who exploited her inexperience and naivety to get her to engage in the conduct she did," he said.

"He made it clear to her that this was a proper relationship he wanted to embark on with her and she felt flattered and he made it clear he was a man of means and wanted a relationship with her once he had been released from prison. She is both ashamed and embarrassed."

Sentencing her to 16 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months Judge David Potter said Southern had breached the trust that the public expect in prison officers to engage in an inappropriate relationship with a serving prisoner 'during which you engaged at least once in actual sexual activity while that prisoner was in his cell'.

He told her: "I accept however that you were to an extent a vulnerable person having just come of an abusive relationship and were clearly in a vulnerable state and in a position to be exploited by a serving prisoner. Nevertheless you had received a copious amount of training and experience in the job and it must have been clear from the get-go what you were engaging in was completely wrong.”

He also ordered her to carry out 125 hours of unpaid work.