Nine years for prison officer for smuggling crack and heroin

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A prison officer who was found smuggling crack cocaine, heroin and steroid tablets in fruit juice cartons has been jailed for nine years.

Paul Heap, 43, was discovered carrying a bag containing two fruit juice cartons packed with drugs as he went into HMP Altcourse in Liverpool while on sick leave on June 28 last year.

Prison officer Paul Heap who has been jailed for nine years at Liverpool Crown Court after he was found smuggling crack cocaine, heroin and steroid tablets in fruit juice cartons. Photo credit: Merseyside Police/PA Wire

Prison officer Paul Heap who has been jailed for nine years at Liverpool Crown Court after he was found smuggling crack cocaine, heroin and steroid tablets in fruit juice cartons. Photo credit: Merseyside Police/PA Wire

At his sentencing, Liverpool Crown Court heard that when his rucksack was searched officers found crack cocaine, heroin, cannabis and more than 2,000 steroid tablets as well as a mobile phone, charger and two sim cards.

Police said the drugs had an estimated value of more than £215,000.

Judge David Aubrey QC said Heap had "cast a shadow" on his colleagues after 14 years working as a prison officer.

He said: "What you were doing, by your pleas of guilty, was to contribute to aggravate and exacerbate the very issue you were employed to seek to control and protect.

"You had in effect changed sides. You had changed to the other, the dark side, having become involved in that evil trade of the supply of drugs within and to a prison, your prison.

"You were therby corrupting and corroding the very environment and system that you were supposed to be safeguarding. Your offending was a grave breach of trust."

Sentencing the father-of-two, he said: "Your head is rightly bowed in shame and by your corrupt dealings you have also brought shame upon your family."

The court heard that a search of Heap's car and house, in Hartley's Village, Aintree, revealed more than £9,000 of cash which he initially claimed was savings.

He pleaded guilty to seven charges of possessing drugs with intent to supply, three counts of conveying a prohibited article and one charge of possessing cash which was criminal property.

Ian Criddle, prosecuting, said: "As the court will know, the value of prohibited items within the prison estates fluctuates wildly on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, but the items recovered from the defendant are far more valuable within the prison estate than from outside it."

Andrew McInnes, defending, said a psychiatric report showed Heap was suffering a "depressive episode" and had issues for many years after witnessing a prison suicide.

He also said he had financial pressures, including paying the mortgage for the home where he lived with his parents.

A financial investigation showed he had relied on credit cards and long and short-term loans to fund his lifestyle until December 2016.

Mr McInnes said: "It seems, unfortunately, the pressures of the job and pressures financially have led this defendant to accept a suggestion to become involved in this enterprise."

In an interview with police, Heap said he had been put under pressure, although he had not been threatened directly, by a prisoner who he refused to name.

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Mossop, head of the Titan prison corruption unit, said: "This sentence is a message to those prison staff who are considering taking contraband into prison.

"Titan continues to set dismantling prison corruption as a priority and with staff dedicated to investigating prison staff suspected of being involved in the supply of drugs and contraband within prisons, if they are convicted they will be looking at similar lengths of sentence."

Steve Williams, director of G4S-run HMP Altcourse, said: "I'd like to thank my team and North West Regional Organised Crime Unit for their exemplary work in blocking this significant drug-trafficking route.

"We expect the highest standards of integrity from our team and if there is any suggestion a member of staff has undermined the good work of their colleagues we will always take swift action."