Leeds prisoner faces more time after cannabis blackmail

Have your say

An inmate who tried to blackmail a prison officer at HMP Leeds into bringing cannabis into the jail has been sentenced to three years four months on top of his current jail term.

Liam Bell had various offences on his record including damage, robbery, theft, possessing drugs and aggravated vehicle taking which had led to him serving a number of sentences at the prison where he got to know the officer, who has not been identified.

Carmel Pearson, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court that Bell had seen the officer in Leeds in between sentences and they had exchanged pleasantries, but through that Bell had learned where he lived.

Last summer Bell put details of the man’s address on the internet saying it was where “a screw” lived adding “terrorise him.”

Soon after Bell was back in custody serving a short sentence when he arranged for another prisoner to pass a note to the officer saying he knew where he lived and threatening “I suggest you bring some cannabis” or his home, car and “pretty blonde girlfriend” would be targeted.

The note ended “if you inform any authority you will be in danger.”

Miss Pearson said the officer reported what had happened and Bell was arrested. He denied responsibility for the note but was linked through DNA and handwriting, then claimed it was a joke. The officer had to take time off work through stress.

Kenton Sargeant representing Bell said: “It was an act of utter stupidity.”

He said it was Bell’s case it was “a malicious inquiry rather than a well-formed criminal plan. He wanted to see what effect it would have.”

Bell, 23, who is currently serving 876 days for burglary imposed since then, admitted blackmail and was given three years four months to run consecutive to that.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC told him blackmail was one of the “ugliest and most vicious” of crimes.

He said: “He [the victim] was vulnerable, as are all prison officers. They perform an important public service amongst people who are dangerous and are always aware of the vulnerability of their families. The courts must do all they can to make clear that any such threat is very serious indeed.”

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

Sheffield Mutual achieves solid results as investment ISA grows in popularity