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Jail time for Dovegate officer who fell for killer and smuggled contraband

A Staffordshire jail officer, who struck up a romance with a convicted killer, will spend time behind bars after smuggling steroids and phones into prison.

A specialist team that is part of West Midlands' Regional Organised Crime Unit, discovered 37-year-old Gemma Farr, from Draycott, Derbyshire, was abusing her position in HMP Dovegate to convey contraband to inmates.

Prison bosses alerted police after suspicions were raised over her conduct – amid rumours she’d fallen for a prisoner serving a life sentence – and routine of regularly leaving the prison grounds.

Investigators from the Regional Prison Investigation Team found that Farr, who had held a prisoner rehab role at the Staffordshire facility for seven years, had arranged regular meetings with Salford man Peter Cochrane in nearby pub car-parks where the banned items were handed over.

Farr indicated in a police interview that she smuggled the contraband into jail by hiding it in her underwear.

Analysis of her mobile phone showed more than 1,500 contacts from June to September 2017 with a number suspected as a 'pool phone' used by prisoners in secret.

Staff at the jail found 34-year-old inmate Ricky Walsh, who is serving a minimum 10-year sentence for robbery and gun possession, trying to flush a Samsung phone down his cell toilet during a lockdown search.

Farr was jailed for 32 months yesterday (8 January) at Birmingham Crown Court, after admitting conspiring to supply steroids and phones into prison. A third charge of misconduct in a public office was left to lie on file.

Walsh – who orchestrated the supply of drugs and phones inside – will be sentenced at a later date.

His partner Louise Brierley, aged 34 from Ancoats in Manchester, was ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work after admitting money laundering by taking deposits into her bank account from associates of prisoners who used the contraband supply chain.

58-year-old Cochrane, from Cross Lane in Salford, was also handed an eight-month jail term for his part in the supply conspiracy.

Detective Constable Stephanie Petersen, said: “This latest conviction is the result of a year-long investigation. The group involved in the conspiracy included a serving prison officer, a convicted prisoner, the prisoner’s partner and an associate used to transport the illicit items.  

“This sends a clear message to all those considering smuggling illegal items into a prison: whatever your role we will investigate offences and the perpetrators risk significant prison sentences.”

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