A prison officer who had a baby with an inmate serving life behind bars for murder has been spared jail.
Kerianne Stephens, 26, slept with hit-and-run killer Louis Tate, 35, during a four-month romance at HMP Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
The relationship, which carried on between September 1, 2018, and January 8, 2019, also saw them exchange phone calls and text messages via an illegally-held mobile.
Stephens gave birth to a daughter in June 2019 and Tate was later confirmed as the father.
Kerianne Stephens, 26, slept with hit-and-run killer Louis Tate, 35, during a four-month romance in HMP Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent (pictured outside Maidstone Crown Court in October last year)
The relationship, which carried on between September 1, 2018, and January 8, 2019, also saw them exchange phone calls and text messages via an illegally-held mobile
The mother pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office at the category B jail.
Stephens also admitted unauthorised transmission of image or sound by electronic communication between the same dates.
Tate, 35, and formerly from Southall, London, pleaded guilty to the same phone offence.
Stephens sobbed in the dock at Maidstone Crown Court as Judge Philip Statman told her that despite the seriousness of her crime, exceptional circumstances which included the delay in court proceedings and the significant impact of custody on her toddler allowed him to impose a 16-month jail term suspended for two years.
She was also ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and 25 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.
The judge told her: ‘You were trained and aware of your responsibilities and you would have known how important it would be for the rules to be observed and for you to set an example, not just to the prisoners in your care but also in terms of integrity to the officers with whom you served.
‘You would have known the importance of boundaries when it came to dealing with those who had committed the gravest of crimes, namely murder.
From murderer to father
Murderer Louis Tate killed father-of-three Garry Frater outside his own Edgware home in May 2009.
He drove at him and knocked him over, before callously reversing over him and dragging him under the wheels.
Tate only stopped when the bump of going over his body caused his Ford Fiesta to jump into the air.
He claimed he had not noticed what had happened because another man had smashed an axe into the windscreen.
Tate, who had a girlfriend at the time, had gone into Watford to try and pick up girls on the night of the murder.
He had come across Mr Frater and his friends and then followed him back to his home before the attack
A post-mortem gave cause of death as multiple internal injuries.
When Tate was arrested on June 11 and taken to a North London police station he gave a ‘no comment’ interview.
He was sentenced to life after being found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey. Another man, who had been his co-accused was cleared.
‘There will be those in the community who will look upon you and wonder how it can be that a sexual relationship between you and your co-defendant was able to continue, albeit over a comparatively short period of time, and leading to the birth of your child.
‘This is not a court of morals but the acts you performed in a public office which led to sexual intercourse in a prison, undermining all that is going on in that institution, make this a very serious crime.’
Tate, who was jailed for life with a minimum 18-year tariff in October 2010 for a hit-and-run murder of a father-of-three in Edgware, north London, had another 10 months added to his sentence to be served concurrently.
His affair with Stephens came to light when, during a move to another prison on October 25 2018, he was overheard telling another inmate he had left ‘a six’ (a phone) in his cell. He also referred to a ‘Miss Kerianne’.
As a result, his cell was searched and an iPhone 6 was discovered hidden in a sock on a table.
A download of the data revealed calls and text messages being exchanged with Stephens’s personal mobile in the 11 days before his planned transfer to Lowdham Grange Prison in Nottingham.
Details of their sexual relationship and as to how it was conducted behind bars were not revealed during their sentencing hearing on Thursday.
But on the day of her arrest as she arrived for work on January 8, 2019, Stephens confirmed she was three months pregnant.
Her diary also revealed she had attended a pregnancy ultrasound scan a month earlier, and giving a conception date of September 29, the court heard.
Prosecutor Maria Karaiskos said all the telephone communications were made while Stephens, who had been a prison guard for five years, was off-duty. Many occurred however within minutes of her finishing a shift.
Murder victim Garry Frater was killed by Louis Tate in 2010 in a hit and run attack
‘Her mobile phone showed it had made or received over 50 calls and sent or received over 20 texts with the phone found in Mr Tate’s cell between October 14 and October 25 2018,’ she told the court.
‘There were also numerous attempted calls made and Internet-based calls made. A lot of material had also been deleted.
‘In summary, it showed that when she was not working, calls were made from her mobile to the mobile found in Mr Tate’s cell.’
The night before Tate’s prison transfer he called Stephens three times, with the calls lasting just over a total of two hours.
She then made a staggering 25 calls to him in the early hours and sent five texts.
Tate, who has 12 previous convictions for 33 offences, initially denied even knowing his lover until he was shown her photograph.
‘He confirmed she was a prison officer that had worked at Swaleside, he stated he knew her and described her as a very professional officer,’ said the prosecutor.
‘He denied any relationship with her other than a purely professional one.’
The court heard Stephens had also been communicating with Tate’s brother, although the details and his location were not given in court.
The phone found in Tate’s cell had also been used to contact others on the outside.
Bethan Rogers, defending Stephens, said her sexual relationship with Tate occurred at a time when she had been ‘broken down’ by a previous abusive partner to such an extent that she was drinking, using cannabis and self-harming.
But Miss Rogers told the court the birth of her child had been her ‘saving grace’.
‘She was a deeply traumatised young woman and one has to ask why someone who is motivated and clearly intelligent finds herself in this extraordinary position,’ she said.
‘She accepts what she did, she knows how wrong it was. In relation to the phone it’s important to remember she didn’t bring it in to the prison.
‘She allowed its use without reporting it but the content of those messages seems entirely to be about their relationship.
‘She is a profoundly immature and profoundly foolish woman who has made a big mistake but out of that mistake came something wonderful for her.’
HM Prison Swaleside in Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent holds 778 criminals
Tate was later transferred to category C prison The Mount in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, but appeared for sentencing via video link with HMP Elmley, also on the Isle of Sheppey.
The court heard Tate has a prison adjudication for possessing a mobile phone in 2017, and on the day of Stephens’s arrest was found with a USB stick plugged into his cell TV.
Sarah Morris, defending Tate, said the phone contact with Stephens was extremely brief and entirely of a ‘personal and romantic’ nature.
In the immediate aftermath of the phone being found, he spent 28 days in isolation and lost his enhanced status.
However, he has since regained that position, become a violence reduction representative, and been commended for preventing a prison staff member from being assaulted.
Stephens, of Aylesford, Kent, pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office at the category B jail between September 1, 2018 and January 8, 2019.
She also admitted unauthorised transmission of image or sound by electronic communication between the same dates.
Tate, formerly of Southall, London, pleaded guilty to the same phone offence.