Former prison officer jailed for being Sun source on George Michael stories - Press Gazette

Former prison officer jailed for being Sun source on George Michael stories

A former prison officer has been jailed for 12 months for selling stories about George Michael's time behind bars to The Sun.

The troubled singer had been sentenced to eight weeks in 2010 after he was found slumped at the wheel of his crashed car.

He spent the last part of his sentence at the category C jail, HMP Highpoint, where Amanda Watts, from Suffolk, worked as a prison officer.

The 43-year-old, who is married to another prison officer, handed over five pieces of information to Sun reporters which resulted in five stories for which she was paid £2,100 by News International, said prosecutor Jake Hallam.

Watts was arrested by Operation Elveden officers in February and later pleaded guilty to a single charge of misconduct in public office between 16 September 2010 and 1 November 2010.

Sentencing Watts at the Old Bailey yesterday, Judge John Bevan QC said her job demanded "loyalty and discretion" as part of the package but she had set a "bad example".

The offence was aggravated because Watts had handed over information about a private prison visit from a friend of the singer who was "famous for being a flawed idol".

There was a further breach when she gave The Sun a sketch of the area of the singer's room indicating a large tree outside the perimeter of the jail where a photographer was found to be lurking.

Judge Bevan ordered Watts to pay £800 in costs and made a confiscation order of £2,399.

Earlier in mitigation, Stephen Dyble had argued for a suspended sentence, saying Watts was in a "fragile state" and suffered from the debilitating illness lupus.

He said she left the prison service in 2012 with post traumatic stress after she was hit in the face by a urine and faeces "bomb" thrown by an inmate.

He added that money was not spent on the high life but was for her husband who had spent £10,000 in legal fees trying to get access to his children.

The lawyer said that Watts accepted that she had breached Michael's confidentiality and that despite his "fall from grace" he was still entitled to privacy.

Watts, of Bury St Edmunds, wiped away tears in the dock throughout the hearing.

Afterwards, Detective Chief Superintendent Gordon Briggs, leading on Operation Elveden, said: "Watts sold confidential information, which she had gained through the course of her job, to a newspaper.

"When public officials behave in this way and breach the trust and confidence placed in them, they undermine the trust placed in public servants to act with honesty and integrity."

Of 34 journalists arrested and/or charged under Operation Elveden, two have been convicted. One of these journalists, The Sun's Anthony France is pursuing an appeal.

However, at least 30 public officials have convicted following Operation Elveden arrests, with many jailed.



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