Prison smugglers punished over HMP Hindley plot

Convicted burglar Kieron Harrop, 22, Katherine Smith, 43, Martin Smith, 49, and Colleen Banks, 49, all admit involvement in a conspiracy to convey articles into the prison in 2018

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 10:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 10:04 am

A prisoner, his mother, his stepfather and a fellow inmate’s girlfriend have been sentenced over a prison smuggling plot.

Convicted burglar Kieron Harrop, 22, Katherine Smith, 43, Martin Smith, 49, and Colleen Banks, 49, all admit involvement in a conspiracy to convey articles into HMP Hindley in 2018, and Harrop also admits possessing an unauthorised item in prison.

Preston Crown Court was told in summer of 2018, Harrop was imprisoned at Hindley alongside another man, Mark Critchley, who has since died after falling down stairs.

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Kieron Harrop
Kieron Harrop

Over a four week period Harrop used the prison telephone to hatch various plans with the other three defendants, sometimes by the use of conference calls facilitated by his mother, to arrange to smuggle cannabis, a mobile phone and tobacco into the prison.

Telephone evidence shows Harrop and Critchley had directed them.

In the first attempt, Critchley pretended to be ill, requiring a transfer to Wigan Hospital. Banks and the Smiths arranged to be at the hospital to try to pass drugs and a phone to him.

Martin Smith, who is a wheelchair-user due to ill health, drove them to the site, but the plan did not materialise because there were too many police at the hospital.

Hindley Prison

The court accepted Critchley had threatened to beat Banks if she did not take part, and she was asked to place cannabis in a bin in the disabled toilet at the hospital, but on her arrival at the hospital car park she was frightened and refused.

She later provided pliers to the Smiths and was instructed to give Katherine Smith money as part of a second bid in September 2018.

The Smiths, of Church Drive, Orrell, and Banks, of Maple Crescent, Leigh, plotted to use wire cutters to cut through the outer fence of the prison to throw a mobile telephone and tobacco over the prison wall.

Harrop, of Grasmere Avenue, Warrington, instructed his mum to “look at Google maps” to identify the correct part of the prison into which to throw contraband and to walk her dogs around the prison whilst on the phone to him.

She carried out a “survey” of the prison area and successfully threw a package containing contraband over the prison fence near E wing.

But the package, which contained 16g tobacco, 5.4g cannabis, cigarette papers and a small mobile telephone, was found and seized by prison staff.

When Harrop’s cell in E Wing was searched a Kazam mobile telephone was found with a SIM card under the pillow.

In a victim personal statement, the head of safety at the prison, spoke of the impact of drugs in the prison, saying they contribute to crime there and that drug smuggling and drug use is linked with violence in the prison - and drug use is linked to self harm incidents.

The court was told drugs often cost five times more inside prison than outside.

Katherine Smith, who has no previous convictions, said she felt under obligation to become involved because of concern for her son and his mental health.

Recorder David Temkin QC said: “Whether born of desperation or otherwise, this offending was instigated by you and it endured for those weeks because of you.

“The fact of involvement in a conspiracy is an aggravating feature since each conspirator playing his part gives comfort and assistance to others knowing that he is doing so, and the greater his or her awareness of the scale of the enterprise in which he is assisting, the greater his culpability.”

He accepted that while Banks had committed a similar offence, she was a domestic abuse victim who had vulnerabilities and was taken advantage of by others.

He jailed Harrop for 12 months, but said the case was unusual and there were “exceptional circumstances” in the cases of the other three allowing him to suspend their sentences.

Katherine Smith and Martin Smith each got six months suspended for 18 months and a rehabilitation

activity.

Banks received a three months’ jail term suspended for 18 months and a rehabilitation activity.

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