Prison nurse and inmate lover among 16 jailed for ‘flooding’ jail with drugs

Affair was at heart of what’s believed to be UK’s biggest-ever prison drugs conspiracy

Tara Cobham
Friday 27 October 2023 16:40 BST

Prison health worker arrives at HMP Lindholme on day of arrest as contraband found in cells

A prison nurse and her inmate lover who "flooded" a jail with drugs are among 16 people sentenced today in what is believed to be the UK's largest-ever prison drugs conspiracy.

Amy Hatfield, 38, who worked as a mental health nursing assistant at HMP Lindholme, near Doncaster, smuggled illicit packages to inmate Joseph Whittingham, with whom she became "infatuated" after they started a sexual relationship in 2018.

On Friday, Hatfield and Whittingham were among 16 defendants - which included other inmates, family members and associates - to be handed sentences totalling more than 80 years at Sheffield Crown Court. A 17th defendant, William Francis, will be sentenced at a later date.

The group were involved in a smuggling network which brought contraband, including drugs, knives and mobile phones, into Doncaster jail between 2018 and 2020.

Sheffield Crown Court heard six of the defendants were serving prisoners who co-ordinated the smuggling network and sold the prohibited items to other inmates, while others were recruited to smuggle the items into the jail and launder the proceeds through their bank accounts.

Sentencing 16 of the defendants, Judge Kirstie Watson called the supply of drugs within prisons, including heroin, MDMA, spice, ketamine and cannabis, a “serious social evil”.

Amy Hatfield, a prison health worker at HMP Lindholme, who was involved in the “serious social evil” of “flooding” the jail with drugs has been jailed

However, Judge Watson told Whittingham that he “exploited” Hatfield’s feelings for him. Despite his attempts to “lay the blame at Amy Hatfield’s door”, the judge said: “I am satisfied that you recruited her.”

The court heard Whittingham had a “leading role” in the operation and also recruited his wife Lucy and father Paul - who both received suspended sentences on Friday - to receive payments for the contraband.

But the judge also said Hatfield “abused” her position to get illicit packages into the prison “for financial gain”. She added: “It must have been clear to you the impact that increased drug use was having, and yet you continued to flood HMP Lindholme with drugs and phones. You even brought in a knife.”

Joseph Whittingham, 35, has been jailed for his involvment in the UK’s biggest-ever prison drugs conspiracy case

Hatfield, of HMP New Hall, was jailed for 10 years and two months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply class A and class B drugs, conspiracy to convey drugs and phones into prison, conveying knives into prison, and money laundering.

Whittingham, of HMP Leeds, has been sentenced to 11 years and four months in prison after admitting conspiracy to supply class B drugs, and conspiracy to convey drugs, phones and a knife into prison.

South Yorkshire Police uncovered the smuggling ring when Hatfield was stopped and searched on her way into work in September 2019 and found with contraband worth an estimated £1m by prison experts. It included MDMA, Ribenna bottles filled with two litres of liquid spice, cannabis, ketamine and mobile phones.

A subsequent search of the mental health unit where she worked found a further litre of spice. Hatfield was arrested the following month.

South Yorkshire Police uncovered the smuggling ring when Hatfield was stopped and searched on her way into work in September 2019 and found with contraband worth an estimated £1 million behind bars

Officers unravelled a “highly complex criminal network” operating inside HMP Lindholme over the subsequent four-year investigation, leading to Hatfield and a further 16 co-conspirators being charged and convicted.

Judge Watson told the court that there were seven spice-related deaths at Lindholme between 2018 and 2019, but none in the seven months following Hatfield’s arrest - although the conspiracy did continue after she left.

Among the deaths was HMP Lindholme prisoner Kyle Batsford, who died in September 2019 when he was forced to take the drug spice to test its potency. The inquest into his death heard that the drug was prevalent in the prison and some prisoners encouraged vulnerable inmates to smoke the drug to test its effects.

The court heard on Friday that toxicology tests found the spice taken by Batsford upon his death matched a batch of the drug recovered from Hatfield upon her arrest.

Another inmate who was sold spice by Jordan Needham, who was jailed for nine years on Friday, spent 10 days in a coma and lost the use of his legs and full sight in one of his eyes, the court was told.

Judge Watson said that three litres of spice were recovered in total in the conspiracy case. This comes to 216,000 doses, with each selling for £50 behind bars, she added.

Judge Watson told the court that there were seven spice-related deaths at HMP Lindholme between 2018 and 2019

It comes as inspectors visiting HMP Lindholme found 21 per cent of the prisoners in the South Yorkshire jail had developed a dependency on drugs since being locked up. Half of the 898 prisoners at the all-male category C prison said it was easy to get drugs, with drones being used to bring them in.

Drugs were also responsible for prisoners’ debt problems, which in turn fuelled higher than average levels of violence.

HM Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said that the rife substance abuse issues meant that prisoners were not being rehabilitated in jail, but were instead being released into the community at a heightened risk to the public.

Mr Taylor said: “This was a really worrying inspection of a prison fundamentally failing to deliver this with some potentially very dangerous men, and arguably allowing the risks to heighten by failing to get on top of a really serious drug problem.”

Prisons minister Damian Hinds added: “The vast majority of staff in our prisons are hardworking and honest, working every day to cut crime and protect the public.

“As this case shows, we will not hesitate to take the strongest possible action against those who think the rules do not apply to them, and we have bolstered the Counter-Corruption Unit that works round the clock to clamp down on the tiny minority who undermine the service with their dangerous behaviour.”

Amy Hatfield was found with contraband including MDMA, Ribenna bottles filled with spice, cannabis, ketamine and mobile phones

Here are the details relating to the other defendants:

  • Kieran Murphy, 26, of HMP Altercourse, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and conspiracy to convey phones into prison. He was also found guilty by jury after a four-day trial at Sheffield Crown Court in June 2023 of conspiring to convey knives into prison. He has on Friday been sentenced to total of seven years and nine months in prison.
  • Jordan Needham, 31, of HMP Dovegate, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey drugs into prison, and conspiracy to convey phones into prison. He has on Friday been sentenced to a total of nine years and six months in prison.
  • Anthony Campbell, 38, of HMP Dovegate, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey drugs into prison, and conspiracy to convey phones into prison. He has on Friday been sentenced to a total of eleven years in prison.
  • Courtney Ward, 26, of Harvey Close, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and conspiracy to supply Class B drugs. She has on Friday been sentenced to a total of four years and six months in prison.
  • Audrey Needham, 56, of Comfrey Close, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and money laundering. She has on Friday been sentenced to a total of four years and three months in prison.
  • Deborah Stoddard, 56, of Shorefields Village, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey drugs into prison, conspiracy to convey knives into prison, conspiracy to convey phones into prison, and money laundering. She has on Friday been sentenced to a total of nine years and six months in prison.
  • Leighton Kemp, 29, of Erewash Gardens, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey drugs into prison, conspiracy to convey phones into prison, and money laundering. He has on Friday been sentenced to a total of five years in prison.
  • Kora Haley, 30, of Holme Lane, Bradford, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey phones into prison, and money laundering. She has on Friday been sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
  • Aneeze Williamson, 30, of HMP Leeds, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and conspiracy to convey phones into prison. He has on Friday been sentenced to five years and five months in prison.
  • Natalie Williamson, 35, of West Royd Drive, Shipley, pleaded guilty to money laundering and being concerned in the supply of Class B drugs. She has on Friday been sentenced to 12 months in prison.
  • Lee Holmes, 44, of Sylvia Terrace, Stanley, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey drugs into prison, and money laundering. He has on Friday been sentenced to a total of two years and three months in prison.
  • Lucy Whittingham, 37, from Bradford, pleaded guilty to money laundering. She has on Friday been handed a two-year suspended sentence and a community order.
  • Paul Whittingham, 59, of Halifax Road, Bradford, was found guilty of money laundering at trial. However, Whittingham was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, conspiracy to convey drugs into prison, and conspiracy to convey phones into prison. On Friday, he was handed a twenty-month suspended sentence and a community order in relation to the money laundering offence.
  • Lydia Pinnington, 23, of Clieves Road, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to charge of money laundering. She appeared alongside Paul Whittingham on trial charged with conspiracy to convey drugs into prison and conspiracy to convey phones into prison. She was found not guilty of these offences. On Friday, she was handed a fourteen-month suspended sentence and a community order in relation to the money laundering offence.
  • A seventeenth defendant, William Francis, 56, of Hogan Gardens, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A drugs (heroin), two counts of possession with intent to supply Class B drugs, and conspiracy to convey drugs into prison. He is due to be sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court on 15 December.

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