A PRISON officer has admitted having a sexual relationship with one of Britain’s most notorious criminals at a top security jail in the North-East.

Stephanie Smithwhite faces going behind bars herself, but now as an inmate, after a judge told her it is only a case of how long the sentence will be that she must serve.

The comments were made after Smithwaite admitted having intimate relations with inmate Curtis Warren at Frankland, a category A prison near Durham.

She also turned a blind eye to the fact he had an unauthorised item, a compact "prison phone" little bigger than a £2 coin..

Warren, 56, from Liverpool, is serving sentences of 13 years for drug smuggling and ten years for failing to meet a subsequent £198m confiscation order.

The Northern Echo:

A street dealer and bouncer in his younger days, Warren is said to have gone ‘global’, establishing an international drugs trafficking network, with links to a notorious Colombian cartel, but with a base in Holland.

He was arrested in 2007 over an attempt to smuggle £1m worth of cannabis into Jersey for which he received the 13-year sentence in December 2009, twice, thereafter, unsuccessfully trying to appeal the conviction.

Warren was given the £198m confiscation order in 2013, with a further ten years in prison in lieu of payment, and the following year was reported to have lost an appeal against that order.

He has since spent time in top security prisons Full Sutton, near York, Belmarsh in London and Frankland, where he met Smithwhite.

The 40-year-old officer, who has now lost her job on the back of the conviction, made her admissions during a short plea hearing at Durham Crown Court.

The Northern Echo:

She pleaded guilty to two counts of misconduct in a public office, one by engaging in a sexual relationship with a serving prisoner and the other by knowing a serving inmate had an unauthorised communication device and failed to report it to prison authorities, all between June and December 2018.

Following her pleas Judge Jonathan Carroll agreed to adjourn for preparation of background reports on her by the Probation Service.

Bailing Smithwhite, of Moor Crescent, Boldon Colliery, to return for sentence on February 7, Judge Carroll told her such offences bring into question public confidence in the Prison Service, adding: “They are overwhelmingly likely to be met with a custodial sentence.”