Lucy Thornton has been jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for 10 months for misconduct in a public office (Image: PA)

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A prison officer who "fell in love" with an inmate and also dated his brother has been jailed.

Lucy Thornton, 28, developed "mutual feelings" for violent offender Aaron Whittaker while working at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool, a court heard.

She went on to have a child with Whittaker – who was serving time for wounding – when he was released on parole, Liverpool Crown Court heard today.

Thornton admitted two counts of misconduct in a public office for inappropriate relationships with Whittaker and his brother Haden, who had been locked up at the Merseyside prison for wounding and burglary.

Simon Duncan, prosecuting, said there had been hundreds of calls and text messages between Thornton, of Orford, Warrington, and the two lags while they were in prison.

Aaron Whittaker had a child with the prison officer
(Image: Liverpool Echo)

Intelligence of inappropriate relationships involving Thornton first emerged in March and April 2019, he said.

But when interviewed by the prison's security governor Mark Jones, Thornton denied that anything untoward was going on.

On the same day as her interview in May 2019, Aaron Whittaker's cell was searched and a piece of paper with the name "Lucy" and her phone number was discovered.

Later searches uncovered mini mobile phones in the cells of both Haden and Aaron, who was later transferred to HMP Oakwood in Wolverhampton.

In June 2019, Thornton was suspended from her job after a "play fight" between her and another inmate in which officers witnessed her rolling round on the floor.

Haden Whittaker was jailed for wounding
(Image: Liverpool Echo)

She was arrested the following month, with a phone recovered from her home having Aaron Whittaker's contact stored as "my baby".

After he was transferred away from Altcourse, he contacted Thornton on the prison phone system – referring to her as Lisa Williams – as well as through the prison email system.

She transferred £200 into a bank account to settle a drug debt for him after discovering he had been threatened, the court heard.

Under interview, Thornton said she and Aaron Whittaker had developed mutual feelings in February 2019 and he gave her his number so she could call him when she was off-duty.

Prison officer Lucy Thornton arriving at Liverpool Crown court for sentencing
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

She said she contacted Haden Whittaker as a friend and was also in touch with their mum.

Mr Duncan said there was no evidence of sexual activity in the prison, but when Aaron Whittaker was released in November 2019 the pair "got together" – and she gave birth to their son last year.

She told police they are no longer in a relationship.

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Anthony O'Donohoe, defending, said: "Her explanation is she fell in love with the wrong person in the wrong place, and I suppose in the tides of men and women these things can happen – inappropriate and totally wrong though they are."

He added that Thornton was a woman of previous good character and her future prospects had been "effectively ruined" by her offending.

Sentencing, judge Neil Flewitt accepted that an immediate custodial sentence would have a significant impact on her 10-month-old son.

But he said her punishment should act as a deterrent to other prison officers who may be "tempted to betray the trust placed in them" and criminals who "might seek to exploit them".

He added: "I regret to say, I am satisfied in this case that the appropriate punishment can only be achieved by the imposition of an immediate custodial sentence."

Thornton has been jailed for 10 months.