Women's jail chief stole pounds 100,000 from inmates

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A senior prison manager who stole more than pounds 100,000 from inmates to fund her luxury lifestyle was jailed for twelve months yesterday.

Mother-of-two Helen Price, 42, abused her position as deputy head of management services at Holloway women's prison in north London to pay for the upkeep of her country home.

She also used the money to send her teenage daughter, Melody, to public school and splashed out on lavish holidays all over the world.

But the high life ended as Judge Simon Smith told her: "It is very sad to see someone like you with your ability in the dock after convictions for long and systematic dishonesty on the people you were working for.

Price and her husband, Roy - also a prison official - had a joint income after tax of pounds 26,000 a year, yet they had a bungalow set in five acres of grounds and stables for their six horses.

The court heard that altogether pounds 132,484 went missing in the five years up to Price's suspension in May, 1994, but she was only convicted of eight sample charges of theft, relating to just over pounds 13,OOO.

The judge said she was fortunate not to be going to prison for longer "It is a significantly shorter sentence than the one I originally had in mind, not because you deserve it but because that is what the law states."

Naomi Perry, prosecuting, assured the judge that the prison service would not return Price to Holloway, because of the rough time she might expect from other inmates.

Price was in charge of large sums of cash, including money set aside to buy stamps and envelopes for the 55O inmates and money paid into the jail to secure the release of fine defaulters, said Miss Perry.

She also took cash from letters sent home by prisoners, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

Mrs Perry said Price, who had spent 14 years in the prison service, had an income of pounds 18,OOO a year. " Rent on her bungalow was pounds 35O a month. There were five acres of grazing land and stables and she spent pounds 15O a month on her five horses." She said the family spent thousands of pounds on holidays and Melody's private education cost pounds 1,13O a term.

Mrs Perry said Price, who was promoted to executive level five months before her arrest, stole the cash in two essentially different ways.

She said: "One arose from the fact that as part of her duties Mrs Price was responsible for purchasing postal stock such as stamps.

"To make these purchases she received cash advances from the prison. It is alleged that regularly the defendant took a proportion of that money for herself and didn't spend it on postal stock.

"She also stole money paid to the prison to secure the release of women imprisoned for non-payment of fines."

Price forged papers to suggest women had been released after serving their brief sentences, although they were in fact freed once they paid up the outstanding fines - unaware the money went into her pocket.