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Prison officer jailed for love affair with Chatham inmate

By Chris Hunter

A married prison warder is behind bars himself after admitting a love affair with an inmate at Britain's largest women's prison.

The 31-year-old officer seduced 24-year-old prisoner Colette O'Flaherty, from Chatham, and had sex with her twice before he was caught out by authorities at HMP Bronzefield, Surrey.

Amritpal Ahluwalia was jailed for 15 months after a judge heard he bedded the prisoner in two secret trysts - one of which was in her cell.

Colette O'Flaherty was jailed indefinitely for public protection in 2011

Balding Ahluwalia bowed his head in shame as he was jailed at Guildford Crown Court. He had changed his plea to guilty to committing misconduct in a public office on the first day of his trial.

The court heard Ahluwalia and O'Flaherty began flirting in 2012 while she was on House Block 4, then aged 22 and serving a six-year sentence for possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing prohibited ammunition.

She had been jailed the previous year after Maidstone Crown Court heard how O'Flaherty, of Sturla Road, Chatham, had armed herself with a loaded pistol - a .22 calibre revolver - to protect her family following threats from an ex-boyfriend.

In prison she worked in the hairdressing salon and Ahluwalia first arranged to meet her alone there for sex under the pretence she had to collect some styling text books.

Prosecutor Brian Stork said: "Miss O'Flaherty was nervous - she knew what she was doing was wrong but the defendant was reassuring, telling her it would be all right.

"Once in the salon, she kissed the defendant. He undressed her and they had full sexual intercourse."

Mr Stork said Ahluwalia was "very flattering" as he returned her to her wing and said "how brilliant she had been."

On August 5, 2012, Ahluwalia appeared at the door of O'Flaherty's cell out of hours, where he went inside the room and had sex with her again.

Bronzefield Prison in Surrey. Picture: David Squire

This time, the prison's CCTV cameras captured the prison officer entering her cell.

Mr Stork said: "At the time, he had no permission or reason to go there.

"We see him go into the cell. Once inside, he told her to lie on the bed. He kissed her, touched her and told her he loved her."

Mr Stork said the pair had sex, before Ahluwalia was seen leaving her cell "minutes later."

Their illicit relationship was discovered when O'Flaherty confided in the prison's gym instructor, who immediately reported Ahluwalia to the governor.

That is when the CCTV footage was reviewed and evidence of their August 5 cell sex session was exposed.

Ahluwalia, of Clevedon Gardens, Cranford, Middlesex, denied the allegations but eventually pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial.

Mr Stork said the defendant had worked at privately-run Bronzefield - which houses 600 inmates - since 2009 and was fully aware of the rules.

He added: "It was wholly wrong, it is a significant and wilful breach of trust and it is entirely against the law for a prison officer to engage in sexual intercourse with an inmate, with or without her consent."

Ahluwalia, whose wife initially left him after the affair came to light, held his head in his hands as he sat in the dock wearing a grey suit on Friday afternoon, July 18.

His parents and other prominent members of his Sikh community sat silently in the public gallery during the hearing.

The hearing was held at Guildford Crown Court. Picture: Google Street View

Defence barrister Jemima Ivens said her client and his family "felt great shame" over his actions, that he realised what he had done was wrong and asked for a suspended prison sentence.

However, Judge Christopher Critchlow jailed him for 15 months, and said: "This was sexual behaviour that was consensual but you should not have engaged in it and you knew that.

"You were married and attracted to her. You let yourself get carried away and, as a result, this matter came to light. You denied it and continued to deny it right up until the day of your trial."

The court heard Ahluwalia committed two further crimes while on bail. Both related to breaches of a non-molestation order not to contact his wife, who had left him over his affair.

"It was wholly wrong, it is a significant and wilful breach of trust and it is entirely against the law for a prison officer to engage in sexual intercourse with an inmate" - prosecutor Brian Stork

However, the judge heard the couple had since patched things up and were now back together.

Judge Critchlow said: "This relationship should never have led to sexual intercourse. It can have a significant emotional effect on a female prisoner.

"Because of the nature of a prison officer's responsibilities - particularly when a male prison officer is employed in a female prison - this sort of behaviour must result in an immediate period of imprisonment."

Ahluwalia had been due to face other similar charges relating to misconduct with Miss O'Flaherty and a second inmate, Charlene Nelson, but prosecutors abandoned them after his guilty plea.

The judge told him he would serve half of his sentence before being considered for release on licence.

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