A PRISON officer caught with steroids as he arrived for work narrowly escaped being jailed himself yesterday.

Garry Wilkinson, who was taking the muscle-building drugs to improve his performance as a body-builder, said he forgot he had them with him as he entered Deerbolt Young Offenders’ Institution, near Barnard Castle, County Durham.

His oversight cost him his job as well as putting him on the cusp of a prison sentence, Durham Crown Court heard.

Lesley Kirkup, prosecuting, said Wilkinson was asked if he had anything on him which he should not be taking into the establishment as he arrived for work on September 9.

He said he had nothing, but a container was found in his pocket with 15 tablets, which he claimed were for a chest infection.

Lesley Kirkup, prosecuting, said as there was no prescription label on the container it was retained, but Wilkinson later asked for the return of the tablets.

Mrs Kirkup said they were found to be methandienone, an anabolic steroid. A further 196 were found in his car, with some liquid, and needles.

Mrs Kirkup said notices at the entrance warn staff against taking illicit substances into the prison.

When interviewed, Wilkinson accepted his claim about the pills being for a chest infection was untruthful.

He said the steroids were for his own use as he was three weeks into a ten-week course, for which he paid £180.

Although he was taking nine on a daily basis, he accepted he had more in his pocket that day.

Wilkinson, 39, of Davy Street, Ferryhill, who is of previous good character, admitted conveying a prohibited article into a prison establishment.

His barrister, David Comb, described it as “an exceptional case”.

Mr Comb told the court: “He was invited to resign from his post and is now unemployed.

“He is a hard-working man who would be able to comply with any conditions or order suggested.”

Judge Christopher Prince told Wilkinson: “You pleaded guilty on the basis the tablets were there inadvertently and you had entirely forgotten you had them with you when you went in for work that day.”

Having read a background Probation Service report, Judge Prince said events in his private life may have led Wilkinson “to forget the normal routines of life”, at the time.

“Had you done it deliberately then you would be going to prison for a substantial period of time.”

He passed an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, during which time Wilkinson must perform 100 hours’ unpaid work and be subject to probation supervision.