CORRUPT prison officers pocketed almost £168,000 between them after stealing thousands of DVDs, games consoles and electrical goods due to be sorted by inmates at Forest Bank jail.

At Manchester Crown Court Paul Hewitt, from Radcliffe, and his colleague Paul Albertson, from The Wirral, were each given 15-month prison sentences for what Judge Anthony Cross QC described as “a gross breach of trust”.

The court heard how company, LTV had a contract with the prison for inmates to repackage and return items from retailers to their suppliers.

But when bags of products were delivered to the prison for sorting there was no record of their contents, giving several corrupt officers the opportunity to help themselves to items before they were sent to the prison workshops.

Hewitt and Albertson’s crimes came to light during an investigation into their colleagues Carl Byron, an anti-corruption officer at the prison from Manchester Road, Over Hulton and Anthony Bradbury, from Haslam Street Bury. They were jailed for two years and 10 months and two years and two months respectively, in November 2018.

A mobile phone was analysed in which there were messages also naming Hewitt and Albertson.

When bank accounts were looked at they revealed Albertson had received £19,200 for the sale of 700 items on Ebay between October 2015 and June 2017 plus £63,972 from CeX for 1,600 items. A further £12,000 in his account could not be accounted for.

Hewitt had made £67,849 from 2,000 Ebay sales between January 2016 and June 2017.

Paul Hewitt

Paul Hewitt

The court heard that both men were of previous good character, with Hewitt working for the prison service for seven years and Albertson for 15 years.

Hewitt, aged 41,of James Street, Radcliffe, pleaded guilty to theft and converting criminal property whilst Albertson, aged 42, of Bermuda Road, Moreton, admitted theft and two counts of possessing criminal property.

Paul Albertson

Paul Albertson

Steven McHugh, defending Hewitt, said: “The kindest way to put it is he succumbed to temptation.

“He was going through a difficult time, his marriage was breaking down and he was attempting to move address and had bills to pay.”

He stressed that Hewitt, who found work as a logistics manager for a construction firm after being sacked from the prison service, had spent the cash on paying bills rather than buying luxuries.

Michael Johnson, defending Albertson said that he had risen to the role of orderly officer and, several years ago, a shotgun was put into his mouth during a prisoner escape.

He added that Albertson, like other staff members at the prison, was unable to resist temptation.

“Everybody knew there were people in the prison who, to use a clumsy phrase were ‘bang at it’ and it had been going on for some time,” said Mr Johnson.

“There were probably more employees who were bang at it than have been caught.

“It was a very lax security arrangement. It was a vulnerable system and unhappily, and to the great shame of my client, he was one of those who took advantage of it.”

Mr Johnson added that Albertson will find serving a prison sentence difficult.

“He will be constantly anxious, wary and watching his back almost every minute of every day,” he said.

Sentencing the men, Judge Cross stated that it had been a “terrible, terrible breach of trust” as prisoners should have been able to look up to prison staff.

“They carried out fraud in the very place where men were being held for, amongst other things, fraud,” said the judge.