In the Dock: Prison officer jailed after having ‘inappropriate relationship’ with inmate

Katherine Johnston (13 October, 2019) Crime In the Dock

The court heard she had sent the man jailed for firearms offences texts of a 'sexual nature'

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A prison officer has been jailed after being caught having an “inappropriate relationship” with a serving inmate.

Rachel Barnes, aged 29, from Orpington, was jailed for misconduct in a public office after her involvement with Sebastian Vassell, 28, from Greenwich, in HMP Belmarsh.

Vassell (b. 10.05.91) was also charged with sending unauthorised messages from prison. Both pleaded guilty to their charges.

On Thursday, at Croydon Crown Court, Barnes (b. 01.04.90) was sentenced to ten months in jail, and Vassell was given six months concurrent on each charge but consecutive to the sentence he is currently serving.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Barnes raised suspicion after “going missing for extended periods whilst on shift” at work.

The CPS said although she denied all wrongdoing at a meeting with management, when told there would be CCTV footage available, she confessed to her involvement with the prisoner.

The court heard a search of her locker and car found a phone with messages from Vassell – who had two prohibited phones in his cell.

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 nineteen 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.”

Michael Burkett says:

I had an affair with a teacher in a prison I was in. Nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t get caught.

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