A naive prison officer who had a “wholly inappropriate relationship” with an inmate has been jailed.
Elyse Hibbs, 25, sobbed in court as a lawyer branded her “young, impressionable and relatively inexperienced” for sharing “flirtatious” calls and text messages with the unnamed lag.
She admitted misconduct in public office and was jailed for six months at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday.
Recorder of Cardiff Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke said the offence was “too serious” and warranted immediate custody.
“You knew what you were doing was wrong, you had done training but nevertheless you went on to form an emotional relationship with this inmate. You failed to report initial contact despite advice from a colleague,” the judge said.
“You engaged in a flirtatious relationship initially, you failed to report the ongoing contact and you failed to report that this inmate had upon him and in custody an unlawful device.
“He was left with the potential ability to manipulate you while you were still working at a prison. Although you are young you were in a position of responsibility as a nurse and as a member of prison staff.”
The court heard Hibbs, who worked at HMP Parc in Bridgend, south Wales, got in “too deep” with the inmate after giving him medical treatment in around September 2018.
After concerns were raised about the inmates’ behaviour, he was moved to HMP Manchester in May 2021, reports Wales Online.
A month later, in June, the inmate used his mother and a friend to track down Hibbs on Instagram.
After Hibbs gave them her mobile number, she and the inmate began having three-way calls which involved his friend “holding two phones together so that they could talk to each other”.
Matthew Cobbe, prosecuting, said over the next five weeks and five days the inmate “nurtured” his relationship with Hibbs, from Manchester. They exchanged numerous text and calls – some of which were over the prison phone and recorded.
“The calls between the defendant and inmate were flirtatious,” Mr Cobbe said. “They talked about the prison and staff at the prison. He says he loves her and she replies she loves him too. He told her he wanted to thank her for how she had looked after him at Parc.”
The pair also spoke about how the inmate had an illegal mobile phone and the inmate’s opinions about prison corruption, the court was told.
Mr Cobbe said: “The conversations do contain several references to the defendant asking the inmate not to contact her, nevertheless the contact does continue.
“They also reveal the inmate thought very little of the defendant, he was quite clearly manipulating her. It’s quite plain that their conversations were wholly inappropriate.”
At the beginning of June, Hibbs signed off sick from work and by July 6 had resigned from her post. On July 13 she was arrested after investigators found Hibbs’ phone number on his approved calls list for inmates.
Hibbs, who has since been struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, claimed she was “exploited” and did not feel she could end communication because she felt “threatened” by the inmate.
Defending Hibbs, Adam Sharp, said the contact happened while the inmate was at a different prison and his client did not gain financially or in any other way, nor did she assist in organised crime.
Mr Sharp said: “The misconduct was not face-to-face, it wasn’t even within physical proximity to each other.” And he called Hibbs, who was 23 years old at the time of the offence, “young, impressionable and relatively inexperienced” as well as “emotionally vulnerable”.