Prisoner officer jailed for sexual relationship with prisoner at HMP Belmarsh

A prison officer has been jailed for having a sexual relationship with a serving prisoner.

Rachel Barnes, 29, from Orpington, became involved in the inappropriate relationship with prisoner Sebastian Vassell, 28, while working at HMP Belmarsh in Greenwich.

Prison managers became suspicious when Barnes started going missing for extended periods whilst on shift and when they challenged her she denied any wrongdoing.

But when she was told that there was CCTV available of her missing for periods of time, Barnes became emotional and confessed to being in an inappropriate relationship with Vassell.

A search was then conducted of Barnes’ locker and car, where messages were found on her phones to Vassell. Vassell was found with 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 19 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.”

Barnes was sentenced to ten months in jail and Vassell was sentenced to six months concurrent on each charge, but consecutive to the sentence he is currently serving.

Barnes was charged with misconduct in a public office and Vassell with sending unauthorised messages from prison, both pleaded guilty to the charges.

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