Three Daily Mirror prison story sources jailed over payments made by journalists - Press Gazette

Three Daily Mirror prison story sources jailed over payments made by journalists

Two former prison officers have been jailed for leaking information to tabloid newspapers about notorious inmates.

Grant Pizzey, 50, who worked at top security HMP Belmarsh, was jailed for two years after a judge said his was one of the worst examples of misconduct out of some 30 officials convicted under Operation Elveden.

His wife Desra Reilly, 53, who acted as the conduit between Pizzey and Daily Mirror reporter Greig Box Turnbull, was jailed for 12 months for aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office.

In a separate case, Mark Alexander, 40, was handed 10 months for selling tips to Box Turnbull 11 times and on one occasion receiving £400 from the Sun for a story about the mother of Baby P in HMP Holloway.

Over six years, Pizzey and Reilly, of Widecombe Road, Eltham, south east London, had made nearly £20,000 from the Mirror for tips about Belmarsh and its famous inmates including Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs, hate preacher Abu Hamza and serial killers Steve Wright and Levi Bellfield.

Mother of four Reilly claimed her husband knew nothing about her relationship with Box Turnbull but jurors found them both guilty following a trial at the Old Bailey.

Sentencing, Judge Richard Marks QC told her that the evidence proved that she had told jurors a "tissue of lies".

To Pizzey, he said: "In my judgment of cases of this sort, a significant number of which have been dealt with by this court in the last year or two, this is a particularly serious example.

"Firstly, the length of time, secondly the number of occasions in which you divulged information, thirdly the amount of money and fourthly you did not just divulge information; on occasions you were prepared to confirm information the paper already had. And most seriously of all, you divulged documents and, or, reports which you had removed from prison on five separate occasions.

"For a prison officer such as yourself, Grant Pizzey, to effectively have two paymasters and to be acting as a paid informant or mole unquestionably harms the public interest in a significant way and it is damaging and detrimental to the proper running of the prison.

"It undermines trust in staff and prisoners because no-one knows who it is leaking information and it is potentially unsettling for those prisoners who are the subject of publicity."

There was weeping in the public gallery wept as they were sent down.

Prosecutor Stuart Biggs told the court how, unlike the two other defendants, Alexander had admitted conspiracy to commit misconduct with a Daily Mirror reporter and a further count of misconduct in relation to his dealings with the Sun.

He made £2,700 from the Mirror by handing Box Turnbull information from Holloway prison on 11 occasions between February 2006 and December 2009.

It included details about Baby P's mother giving birth in jail and a former royal aide jailed for murder cutting herself and being placed on suicide watch.

He used his girlfriend's bank account but it was accepted by the prosecution that she did not know what it was for, Biggs said.

Police uncovered his activities when Box Turnbull was arrested and police found a reference to a meeting in the journalist's diary.

In a police interview, Alexander accepted what he had done and explained he was not earning very much and had debts.

Later in 2013, evidence emerged that Alexander, from Albion Road, Port Talbot, South Wales, was also paid £400 by the Sun for another Baby P story, the court heard.

He pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity two years ago but sentence was put off pending Box Turnbull's case which was dropped in the spring this year.

Judge Marks took account of the delay in sentencing, his guilty plea and the change in his circumstances being in a settled relationship with a young child and another on the way.

But the judge told him: "I regret to say that in my judgment the seriousness of your misconduct is such an immediate custodial sentence in inevitable."



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