Former guard spared jail over intimate relationship with Nomads bikie boss in high security prison

A former female correctional services officer has been convicted for kissing an inmate in her care on multiple occasions.

A Nowra Court magistrate sentenced 38-year-old former South Coast Correctional Centre officer Liana Braithwaite to 80 hours of community service and a one-year good behaviour order after she pleaded guilty to intimate relations with bikie boss Justin Bell on at least three occasions in October last year. 

Mr Bell, who holds a senior position with the Nomads outlaw motorcycle gang, is awaiting trial on several alleged violent criminal offences, including the use and discharge of a firearm.

Court facts revealed Ms Braithwaite was caught on CCTV entering a storeroom with Mr Bell on 21 October and 27 October.

The facts said the pair were seen “embracing and kissing on the lips for a few seconds”.

Magistrate Gabriel Fleming rhetorically asked the accused “really?” as she read through the court facts at today’s hearing at Nowra Local Court.

Liana Braithwaite sits outside Nowra Local Court after pleading guilty to the offence.(ABC Illawarra: Romy Gilbert)

Magistrate Fleming said the “appalling behaviour” of Ms Braithwaite was a breach of trust that went to the very heart of the justice system, and was one that could put other people’s safety, including other officers, at risk.

“It raises doubts about the interaction between prisoners, something that, as a corrections officer, is fundamental to your role,” she said.

“Maximum security is for violent offences. They are not in there to be intimate with staff.”

Ms Braithwaite was arrested at the south coast prison in late November and later charged with engaging in a relationship with an inmate causing a safety risk.

The offence carries a maximum two-year prison sentence and $2,200 fine.

Criminal defence lawyer Brett Ford told the court Ms Braithwaite worked as a correctional officer for six-and-a-half years with no previous complaints.

He said his client had worked in the same section for “too long” and got “too close to the inmate involved”, but that he considered the offence to be the “lowest form of liability”.

Police prosecutor Sargent Gardiner told the court that Ms Braithwaite’s actions undermined the position held by prison officers by giving favouritism to offenders, noting the actions could cause risk to the “good order and discipline within the correctional centre”.

Ms Braithwaite has been sacked by Corrective Services NSW.

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