A CONCERNED father who passed a phone SIM card to his son on a prison visit is now behind bars himself.

John Paul Strother and his partner were visiting his son, of the same name, in Durham Prison on the morning of March 10, last year.

Durham Crown Court was told he was seen to approach and embrace his son, clasping hands as he did so.

Victoria Lamballe, prosecuting, said his son then put his hand into his pocket.

Suspicious prison staff challenged them and a struggle ensued, before the SIM card, wrapped in paper, was retrieved from the pocket.

Strother senior was arrested and in interview mostly made no comment.

But Miss Lamballe said he was abusive about prison officers, claiming they, “treat people like dogs”.

Strother, 58, of Everest Grove, West Boldon, was charged with conveying a prohibited item into a prison.

He initially denied the offence, but with his trial looming, changed his plea to guilty in late January.

The court heard his 30 past convictions include a relevant offence of trying to take three class C drugs into prison, again for his son, for which he received a suspended prison sentence, in January last year.

Psychiatric and probation reports were prepared for the court sentencing hearing.

Glenn Gatland, mitigating, said the background was a series of family bereavements, which led Strother to drink heavily in solace.

Mr Gatland said the defendant wanted to help when his son fell into an in-prison drug debt, for which he began receiving threats.

“The defendant took the SIM card into prison in a genuine effort to try to help his son as he was very concerned about him being injured.

“The whole thing has caused him to become extremely depressed and he started drinking to excess.”

Judge James Adkin said: “Items such as phone SIM cards have a high value in custodial settings and are used for criminality by those who are in custody.”

Imposing a nine-month prison sentence, Judge Adkin told Strother: “Passing SIM cards into prison enables professional criminals to operate ‘inside’ and those who assist in that should expect to receive punishment.”

He added that there was a “deterrent element” to the sentence.