An ‘infatuated’ prison officer who had a sexual relationship behind bars with notorious criminal, Curtis “Cocky” Warren, has been jailed for two years.
Stephanie Smithwhite, who has a tattoo of his name next to a rose, allegedly cut a hole in her uniform trousers for sex after ‘falling in love with the wrong person’, Durham Crown Court heard.
The 40-year-old, who was working at maximum security HMP Frankland, denied the hole was for a sexual purpose, but the sentencing judge said it was hard to imagine why else it would be placed there.
The guard indulged in oral sex and secret kissing sessions in various places around the prison, which houses some of the country’s most dangerous criminals – including in Warren’s cell, the kitchen, and laundry room.
While the pair passed sexualised notes to one another, she also sent Warren – once named in the Sunday Times Rich List – a photo of herself wearing a catsuit, the court was told.
The judge said she was infatuated with him, but the disgraced officer told investigators how Warren similarly became obsessed with her, and would buzz from his cell to call for her attention.
Prison staff became suspicious of their relationship and therefore started a surveillance operation into the pair.
She was seen passing a note to him and receiving one back, and Warren tried to eat her note when officers went in to retrieve it, the court heard.
Police searched Smithwhite’s home, where they discovered more notes and a copy of his autobiography – Cocky, The Rise And Fall Of Curtis Warren.
They searched the business of one of her relatives and also found 450 letters, many of which contained sexual fantasies.
When searching her car, they found a white Samsung phone that was only used to call one number, which was traced to the prison, used by Warren.
At first she denied having a physical relationship with the 56-year-old Liverpudlian.
Judge Jonathan Carroll said Warren was a “major league offender” who tried to manipulate her into bringing contraband into the prison after starting their affair, and asked her about prison intelligence and security cameras.
He addressed Smithwhite’s conduct as representing “the very most grave breach of trust placed in you.”
While Warren was known to have previously run criminal enterprises from behind bars using phones, Smithwhite did not report his mobile used to contact her.
The gangster was also known to have had previous relationships with other prison staff, but Smithwhite failed to resist him, despite undergoing training about manipulative and corrupting inmates.
Investigators found they had called each other 213 times in just three months.
On Friday, Smithwhite was jailed after admitting two counts of misconduct in a public office, with one charge relating to their sexual relationship.
Their relationship is said to have lasted between June and December 2018, with the second count regarding her failing to report that she knew he had access to a phone.
Rupert Doswell, prosecuting, said Warren was serving 13 years for conspiracy to import drugs and a further 10-year sentence for failing to pay back £198 million in proceeds of crime.
He had previously committed manslaughter in a jail fight with an inmate in Holland.
Mr Doswell said Warren was “highly dangerous to the public”.
In interviews with detectives, the officer was said to be “devastated” but hoped there was an outside chance their relationship could continue.
Andrew Nixon, for Smithwhite, who is from Boldon Colliery, South Tyneside, said she made a “catastrophic error of judgment”.
He said: “This is a woman who has fallen in love with the wrong person.”
Detective Inspector Lindsay Banks-Brown, from Durham CID, said: “Those who choose to act dishonestly in a position of trust should not be allowed to tarnish the reputation of honest, hardworking staff who carry out their duties within the law.
“We hope this result shows we will take action against those people who believe they are above the law and engage in corrupt activity, and we will bring them to justice.”