Prison officer jailed after affair with inmate

10 December 2010, 17:06 | Updated: 10 December 2010, 17:09

A woman prison officer who became infatuated with a serving prisoner has been jailed for two years for alleging that he had blackmailed her.

Donna Stanton, 28 began a sexual relationship with Eric Fitzgerald while he was serving the last few months of a seven year sentence at Bedford prison.

She smuggled a mobile phone into his cell, which was against prison rules, and after his release their affair continued.

She lavished gifts and money on him and gave him a car to use.

But when the relationship turned sour she made a statement to police saying Mr. Fitzgerlad was blackmailing her and he was arrested.

Judge John Bevan QC told Stanton today (Friday December 10th): "You allowed yourself to become infatuated and involved with Eric Fitzgerald who was a criminal with a serious record. You lavished presents on him and he accepted them. He was a drug user and inevitably it all went to pieces.

"You were given a position of trust within the prison service and have brought shame on yourself by falling for a long term prisoner serving a sentence for considerable violence. When the relationship inevitably soured on his release you falsely accused him of blackmail.

"You went into this affair knowing the risks you were running and the trust you were breaching."

Stanton, who has had a baby since being convicted, pleaded guilty in June at Luton Crown Court to doing acts tending and intending to pervert the course of justice and taking a prohibited article into prison.

Two other charges of misconduct in public office were not proceeded with and have been left on file.

She originally denied all the charges and her trial began but as Mr. Fitzgerald was in the witness box she changed her pleas.

At the trial Laura Blackband, prosecuting told the jury "There is a saying isn't there that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and that is what this case is about."

She said Miss Stanton went to her bosses inside Bedford Prison and then to the police claiming Mr Fitzgerald had been blackmailing her, threatened her with violence and had stolen her car.

As a result, Luton crown court was told that after giving her account to the police, he was arrested and held in custody for about twelve hours.

It was only when detectives questioned him that "the truth emerged," said the prosecutor.

Earlier, the court was told Miss Stanton of Ashmead Road in Bedford began work at Bedford Prison in October 2004.

It was in January of the following year that Fitzgerald was jailed at the Old Bailey for seven years for attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Classed as a high risk prisoner, he served his sentence at a number of prisons before arriving at Bedford Prison in May 2008 as part of the process of preparing him for his eventual release.

He found himself on B wing.

Miss Blackband said working there was Miss Stanton who, by this time, was an experienced prison officer.

"She took a shine to Mr Fitzgerald and she started flirting with him. She singled him out for special attention," she said

The court heard she started bringing food, cigarettes, tobacco and newspapers into the prison for him.

By August of 2008 he had his own cell and said Miss Blackband, they would talk together at night and began passing suggestive notes and messages to each other.

"It was pretty obvious to him she fancied him, she was flirting with him."

She added "She made it obvious she wanted to go further and wanted a sexual relationship with him."

The court heard she got him a job in the prison laundry which meant he was working later and, said Miss Blackband, Miss Stanton began working late shifts so that she could spend time with him.

Continuing with her outline of the case, she said the pair began kissing when alone together in his cell and soon sex acts such as oral sex were taking place between them "pretty much every day."

By now, said the prosecutor, she had got a mobile phone and charger into the prison for him. The jury was told that when Mr Fitzgerald was released from Bedford Prison in November 2008 they met up and after going to a hotel in Milton Keynes had full sex for the first time.

"She fell in love with him very quickly and she fell hard. She wanted to spend her life with him" said Miss Blackband adding "She was obsessed with him, she lavished money on him."

She said Miss Stanton paid money into a bank account for him, bought him clothes, trainers and Christmas presents that year.

The jury heard that Mr Fitzgerald was living in the London area, working as a stone mason for his father and trying to get his life together.

At the same time, the court heard he was being showered with text messages and phone calls from Stanton.

"She became overbearing" said Miss Blackband.

The jury heard that in January 2009 she took Mr Fitzgerald to a car showroom in Peterborough where she bought a new car for around £16,000 on finance for him to use.

But said Miss Blackband, the released prisoner was losing interest and she suspected he might be seeing other women,

"It was obvious to her the relationship was going nowhere. Bitter and upset she decided to get her own back. She wanted him to suffer," she said.

The court heard on March 16 last year Miss Stanton went to see her bosses at the prison and told them Mr Fitzgerald had been blackmailing her, threatened to kill her and stolen her car.

She claimed he told her he would tell the prison about a relationship between them and she felt she had to give him money.

Later she gave police the same story and as a result Mr Fitzgerald was arrested.

"The truth quickly came out. He said he hadn't blackmailed her or stolen her car, that she was obsessive and had given him money and the relationship had soured."

Police were also able to examine text messages that had passed between the two and Miss Blackband went on "It became apparent this was not a situation in which he had been blackmailing her or threatening her."

As a result Miss Stanton was arrested in October 2009.

At the start of his evidence, Mr Fitzgerald was asked about his arrival at Bedford Prison and meeting Miss Stanton.

He said "As we got talking and got familiar with each other, it slowly but surely got more than just talking. She seemed to spend a lot more time with me than other inmates."

At the time he described himself as being "very fit" from regularly working out in the prison gym.

David Matthew, defending said on Friday: "She was in a vulnerable state at the time. She had witnessed a death in the prison which had an effect on her mental health.

"It was in that state that she was seized upon and found herself entangled with him.

"She embarked on the relationship but both of them handled that affair badly. She lavished presents and cash on him in a mistaken attempt to keep his affection.

"He was happy to accept this because he was someone who used heroin and regarded this as a marvelous way to get what he wanted.

"She has destroyed her good character, her career and her many hopes for the future."