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Prison secretary passed drugs and phones to inmates

December 6, 2018
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A Derby woman who worked at a Nottinghamshire prison has been jailed for conveying cannabis, spice and mobile phones to inmates.

Rachel Taylor was employed as an administration assistant in the psychology department at HMP Lowdham Grange in March 2016. Three months later suspicion began to arise among her colleagues that she was engaging in inappropriate relationships with prisoners, namely Raphael Davis and Jordache Smith-Challis.

In December that year a search of the prisoners’ cell led to the recovery of mobile phone parts and drugs. More significantly, a diary was also discovered. On examination by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) it was found to contain vital evidence of Taylor’s involvement in a much wider plot to traffic cannabis, spice and phones over a seven-month period into the Category B prison, which houses men sentenced to at least four years in jail with more than 12 months left to serve.

Various mobile phones, and cannabis packaged in 16 individual wraps, were subsequently recovered from Taylor’s home.

Further scrutiny of phone communications and transfers in Taylor’s bank account pointed to two others. Cherrice Bennett — Davis’ girlfriend on the outside — mailed items to Taylor and transferred money into her account. She also received large amounts of money into her account from Davis. Shelagh Challis — Smith-Challis’ mother — also transferred money to Taylor and received money into her account on behalf of her son Jordache.

All five pleaded guilty as charged at earlier hearings at Nottingham Crown Court. They were sentenced this week (Monday 3 and 5 December 2018), as follows:  

        - Raphael Tyson Davis, aged 27, of no fixed address: four years imprisonment for conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and conspiracy to convey Class B drugs into prison.

        - Jordache Smith-Challis, aged 24, of no fixed address: three years for conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and conspiracy to convey Class B drugs and phones into prison.

        - Rachel Taylor, aged 24, formerly of Merrill Way in Derby: two-and-a-half-years in jail for possession with intent to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey mobile phones and Class B drugs into prison and possession of criminal property.

        - Cherrice Bennett, aged 26, of Tile Croft in Stourbridge, Dudley: four-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, and 100 hours of unpaid work for possession of criminal property.

        - Shelagh Challis, aged 43, of Bexhill Road in Brighton: 12-month community order for possession of criminal property.

Detective Inspector Jim Heggs said: "Prisoners Raphael Davis and Jordache Smith-Challis were conducting a profitable business from prison, using their loved ones as well as corrupting Taylor.

"Taylor was well aware of her involvement in this conspiracy and was happy to benefit from the criminality, taking measures to cover her tracks as she continued to exploit her position. It was money she spent on an extravagant lifestyle of designer clothes and accessories.

"While Davis and Smith-Challis were the instigators of the business, Taylor played a critical part in the conspiracy as she was able to purchase the mobile phones and other devices and facilitate and arrange collection of the drugs, before she conveyed them into the prison.

"As a result of a thorough investigation by EMSOU, with support from the Prison Service, the two prisoners will be behind bars for longer, and Taylor will now see the other side of prison life, as an inmate herself."

Mark Hanson, Serco Contract Director at HMP Lowdham Grange, said: "Corruption is completely unacceptable and we have been working with the police to bring this case to court. 

"We are very pleased with the outcome and the sentences the judge has handed out."  

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