A WOMAN employed to give careers advice to prisoners also gave them drugs and a mobile phone.
Hayley O’Connor formed a relationship with convicted Peterlee blackmailer Liam Coatman who persuaded her to bring the banned items into Durham Prison, a court heard.
O’Connor volunteered for prison work while she was a teacher at East Durham College, and was working full-time for Action for Employment at the time of her arrest last year.
Prosecutor Joanne Kidd told Durham Crown Court: “Her job involved giving education and careers advice to serving prisoners, which was done in communal areas and in cells, often unsupervised.
“She had a key fob to enable her to move around the prison to carry out her duties.
“On the morning of her arrest on October 28 she was late for work.
“When she was arrived two prison officers performed a security check.”
The court heard O’Connor had a new mobile phone in her pocket and 350 tranquillisers hidden in her bra.
She was also carrying dog biscuits which prison staff believe was an attempt to confuse the prison’s sniffer dogs.
Later analysis of O’Connor’s mobile phone found a text message to Coatman saying: “Am I going for the stuff, baby?”, to which he replied: “Yeah”.
Ms Kidd added: “From other calls and texts it was clear the pair had established a relationship.
“They exchanged photos of each other, including one of Ms O’Connor’s cleavage.
“When interviewed by police, Ms O’Connor first claimed threats had been made to kill her horses and harm her family if she did not co-operate.
“She said someone on the outside directed her to a bush at Bowburn services on the A1 which is where she found the drugs.”
O’Connor, 26, of Bowes Grove, Spennymoor, admitted conveying a banned article into prison, and possession of class B and C drugs.
Ian West, defending, said in mitigation: “She is of previous good character, and while she no longer claims she was threatened, she naively allowed herself to be taken advantage of by the serving prisoner.”
Judge Christopher Prince jailed O’Connor for 14 months.
The judge told her: “You abused your position of trust, and your actions put detained persons and colleagues at risk.
“Drugs and mobile phones are a major threat to the security of the prison and its staff.”
A hearing will be held later in the year to determine if any of O’Connor’s assets can be seized as the proceeds of crime.