A WOMAN who smuggled almost £5,000 worth of drugs into prison has been jailed to “send a message out” to prevent others from passing drugs to prisoners.

Emma Dale, 23, hide 24g of spice and 40 tablets of buprenorphine in her bra while she visited then boyfriend, Brian Stephenson, in Holme House Prison, Stockton.

The pair were caught almost immediately after they exchanged the drugs, worth an estimated £4,800, in the prison’s visiting room in June 2017.

Teesside Crown Court heard Dale was “pressured and intimidated” into smuggling the drugs but was handed a four-month prison sentence as a deterrent to others planning on passing substances to prisoners.

Judge Stephen Ashurst said drugs, which are used as a currency inside prisons, is a “major problem” across the North-East and “a message has to go out” to protect prison staff and inmates.

He said: “Drugs in prisons represent a major problem these days particularly in the North-East and in Holme House prison.

“They are a currency which can be used by bullies in prison to exert pressure on other people. It affects the welfare of prisoners and safety of prison staff. That is why the court takes a very serious view on anyone who takes drugs into prisons.

“I acknowledge that this case, as many, involve a selfish and manipulative criminal who are serving a sentence and they pressure people, sometimes women, children and the elderly, to run the risk of bringing drugs inside. They assume that the court will take pity on them not pass a custodial sentence so they are more likely to repeat the offending.

“But it is clear to anyone going on a visit to Holme House Prison that there are posters and warnings stating taking drugs into prison is a criminal offence that will lead to a custodial sentence.”

He added: “I’m afraid the court has to pass deterrent sentences to prevent people taking drugs into prison. Those who ignore the warnings do so at their own peril. That is the very least I can do. The message has to go out even at the hardship of those in your position.”

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said Dale was handed the drugs by an unknown woman ahead of the prison visit in June 2017 and claimed she was “pressured and intimidated” into passing the substances to her then partner who was serving time in prison.

Andrew Teate, defending, described the 23-year-old as a “vulnerable and immature” woman.

He added Dale, who wept in the dock, was in a toxic relationship with Stephenson who was a “well known offender” but has no previous convictions herself.

Dale, of Salters Lane, Shotton Colliery, Durham, admitted supplying class B drugs and transporting a listed article into prison.