A former prison officer has been jailed for 12 months for selling stories about George Michael’s time behind bars to the Sun.
The 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 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 Jake Hallam, prosecuting.
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 on Tuesday, Judge John Bevan QC said hers had been one of the jobs which demanded loyalty and discretion but she had set a bad example.
The judge said the offence had been aggravated because she had handed over information about a private prison visit from a friend of the singer who was “famous for being a flawed idol”.
And 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.
Bevan ordered Watts to pay £800 in costs and made a confiscation order of £2,399.
Watts, of Bury St Edmunds, wiped away tears in the dock throughout the hearing. Afterwards, DCS Gordon Briggs, leading 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.”
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 Watts accepted that she had breached Michael’s confidentiality and despite his “fall from grace” he was still entitled to privacy.