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Hannah Gaves: Prison officer caught smuggling crack cocaine in underwear has jail term increased

Anthony France
·3-min read
Hannah Gaves (Wiltshire Police )
Hannah Gaves (Wiltshire Police )

A prison officer who tried to smuggle crack cocaine in her underwear has had her jail term increased at the Court of Appeal.

Hannah Gaves, 27, was stopped on her way to work at HMP Erlestoke in Wiltshire in January last year with cannabis and five packets of tobacco, as well as six grams of 81 per cent-pure crack cocaine in her underwear.

She pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply a Class A and a Class B drug and attempting to bring tobacco into the prison.

Gaves, of Butlers Close, Bristol, was sentenced to three years in prison at Salisbury Crown Court in August, but her sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Solicitor General, Michael Ellis, as being unduly lenient.

Following a hearing in London on Friday, Gaves’ sentence was increased to four years and eight months in jail.

Lord Justice Davis, sitting with Mrs Justice McGowan and Mr Justice Foxton, said the three-year sentence was “not simply lenient, it is undoubtedly unduly lenient”.

Kerry Broome, representing Mr Ellis, told the court that Gaves, who refused to name the person who she said asked her to bring the drugs into the jail, claimed there was “an element of coercion” but that did not justify such a lenient sentence.

Lord Justice Davis said that “as a prison officer, above all she would know what her duty is when threats are made”.

The judge added: “It was simply Ms Gaves’ say-so that she had been threatened.”

Ms Broome said: “There is no evidence at all to support that.”

Charles Thomas, for Gaves, suggested that his client “did not know” what was going to happen to the drugs once they were in the prison.

Lord Justice Davis replied: “Oh, come on … she knows how prisons work.”

Mrs Justice McGowan added: “She must have known that drugs are a form of currency in prison and that they are exceptionally dangerous.”

Mr Thomas continued that Gaves “should have known better … when facing threats”, adding: “The decision not to take action about it was entirely wrong and that is why she is in the situation she is in now.”

Increasing Gaves’ sentence, Lord Justice Davis said Gaves had been working as a prison officer for just under a year when she was caught with the drugs on January 27 2019.

The judge said staff at HMP Erlestoke “had begun to have suspicions about her behaviour”, including the fact that “she did not appear to be having problems with the prisoners”.

After CCTV footage showed Gaves “spending a considerable period of time in a cell of a particular prisoner”, a decision was made to “stop and search” her when she next attended work.

When Gaves was told she would be searched, and asked if she had any prohibited items, Lord Justice Davis said, “she answered, ‘yes, weed and tobacco’”.

But the judge said: “That was not the whole truth because, when she was searched, not only was a quantity of cannabis and five packets of tobacco (found) … in addition, and hidden in her underwear, was a lump of a white substance wrapped in cling film.”

He added that the substance was later found to be “just over six grams of crack cocaine at 81% purity”.

Gaves told police she felt she had “no option” and that the unnamed individual who asked her to bring drugs into the jail “knew where she lived and had contacted her on social media”.

But Lord Justice Davis said: “If threats are made to (prison officers) they know that their responsibility is to report that threat.”

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Ellis said: “Gaves intentionally smuggled contraband into prison with the intention of supplying dangerous drugs. She betrayed the trust inherent in her office.

“The decision by the Court of Appeal to increase her sentence today was the right one.”

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