Prison officers having affairs with criminals rise by nearly 90%

Prison guards’ social media accounts are being monitored to weed out staff at risk of corruption – after the number of guards having affairs with criminals rose 89 percent in three years.

Among them is one who had his lover’s mobile number tattooed on the inside of his thigh, as well as others who sent explicit photos and even had sex behind bars.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that five male and 31 female prison officers have been fired for misconduct in the past three years.

And among them are some of the 18 female guards at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, who have been sacked for illicit relations since 2017.

A source told MailOnline: ‘Management is committed to weeding out corrupt officers and has begun renewing its vetting of prison staff every 10 years.

“They also conduct social media checks for some higher-risk positions, such as prison officers.”

The national police database check will also be added to the criminal record checks already carried out.

Mark Fairhurst, national president of the Prison Officers Association, told MailOnline: ‘We will work tirelessly with the employer to rid the service of corrupt staff.

“These examples highlight the inadequate training given to staff, which puts us all at risk. All too often, vulnerable recruits with no life experience are conditioned by experienced criminals who exploit their weaknesses.

Prison officer Ayshea Gunn with prisoner Khuram Razaq in the cells of HMP Berwyn, Britain’s largest prison

Emily Watson

John McGee

Emily Watson, left, was jailed for a year after engaging in sexual acts with inmate John McGee

“We would like to see a more robust training package, more competitive wages and stricter vetting procedures that help prevent corruption.

“The vast majority of prison officers are decent, honest, hard-working people who are an asset to the service and these examples should not detract from a workforce that continues to serve the public with integrity and courage.”

It is feared that the surge is due to the current recruitment process where people applied for the jobs via Zoom, the Telegraph reported.

There has also been a diversity drive that has seen the number of female prison staff increase by nearly 30 percent to 15,000 in the system.

Married Victoria Laithwaite, 47, was caught sending messages to prisoner James Chalmers, 30, suggesting there was a relationship between the pair while he was being beaten up.

She was working as the head of Safer Custody and Equalities when the texts were discovered on a mobile phone found in the prisoner’s cell at HMP Onley.

Ayshea Gunn in handcuffs on her way to prison, leaves court after she was revealed to have been in a relationship with an inmate

Ayshea Gunn in handcuffs on her way to prison, leaves court after she was revealed to have been in a relationship with an inmate

Jennifer Gavan

Alex Coxson

Ex-custody officer Jennifer Gavan, left, was jailed for eight months after smuggling a cell phone into prison for her lover Alex Coxon, right. She sent Coxon intimate messages and photos via Snapchat

One court heard in one conversation that she said, “I thought you had deserted me,” while in another she wrote, “I thought of all kinds of treasure.”

A photo of Laithwaite was also found, stored on the phone found in Chalmers’ cell.

The sentencing judge told Laithwaite that her offense was compounded by her “serious breach of trust” in her role as a prison warden – which included the responsibility of ensuring the support of the most vulnerable inmates.

Her lawyer said she knew she “has ruined her life” and put her family “through hell” because of her “foolishness.”

A female prison guard who had an inmate’s baby after a year-long secret affair was sentenced to nearly two years in prison in November 2022.

Corinne Redhead, 29, initially denied wrongdoing until police found criminal Robert O’Connor listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.

Mrs. Redhead was jailed for 25 months and was told by Judge Michael Simon, “You have utterly breached your professional duty.”

Victoria Laithwaite (pictured), 47, who was working as head of more secure custody and equality at HMP Onley when she messaged and had an 'intimate connection' with a prisoner, was jailed for eight months

Victoria Laithwaite (pictured), 47, who was working as head of more secure custody and equality at HMP Onley when she messaged and had an ‘intimate connection’ with a prisoner, was jailed for eight months

Prison officer Ayshea Gunn, pictured, was sentenced to a year in Mold Crown Court in 2019 after having an affair with a dangerous criminal at HMP Berwyn in North Wales

Khuram Razaq

Prison officer Ayshea Gunn, left, was sentenced to a year in 2019 in Mold Crown Court after an affair with dangerous criminal Khuram Razaq, right, at HMP Berwyn in North Wales

The female prison officer entered into the clandestine relationship with Mr O’Connor, who was serving a ten-year sentence, while working at The Mount Prison in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire – an all-male prison.

She was already six months pregnant when officers were tipped off and raided Mr O’Connor’s cell in January 2019, where they found a mobile phone hidden in the U-turn of his prison toilet.

The phone contained messages between the two – including 100 texts exchanged in just 72 hours – some of which were sexual.

Among the guards guilty of forming relationships with prisoners at HMP Berwyn were Jennifer Gavan, 27, Ayshea Gunn, 27, and Emily Watson, 26.

Most recently, Gavan was sentenced to eight months in prison in December for her relationship with 25-year-old Alex Coxon.

She had sent intimate photos of herself to inmate Coxon via Snapchat and kissed him during the relationship between April and July 2020.

She also smuggled a cell phone behind bars for Coxon.

Gavan, from Llay, Wrexham, pleaded guilty to public misconduct at Mold Crown Court after accepting £150 to bring in the mobile phone.

The relationship came just a year after fellow officer Ayshea Gunn, 27, had an affair with ‘dangerous’ prisoner Khuram Razaq, 29.

A search of Gunn’s bedroom revealed snaps of the couple kissing and cuddling, including cell phone photos taken in his cell. She was subsequently sentenced to a year’s imprisonment at Mold Crown Court in 2019.

Officer Emily Watson, 26, was sentenced to one year in prison by the same court in April 2019 for committing sexual acts with a prisoner in his cell.

Given that Watson spent so much time with John McGee in prison, staff soon grew suspicious and launched an investigation.

Mold Crown Court learned that they had been alone in his cell together three times when she had engaged in a sexual act with him twice and had intercourse once.

Some 31 female officers in England and Wales have been fired for improper relationships since 2019, according to Justice Department statistics.

The prison’s staff, which opened in 2017, were now required to undergo mandatory new training to address such issues at the 2,100-capacity prison.

Formerly called ‘the UK’s most comfortable prison’ by an MP, the prison gives inmates access to a wide range of education and training services, vocational qualifications, access to a large sports hall, weights and gym and outdoor courts, and a variety of methods to communicate with friends and family in the outside world.

A Justice Department spokesman told MailOnline: “The vast majority of prison officers and other staff perform their duties to the high standards that the public rightly expects, but the small minority who do not meet those standards are held accountable.”