A former prison guard who engaged in an intimate relationship with an inmate has escaped a jail sentence.
Amy Meshell Connors, 35, of Kinchela Street Gladstone, was sentenced to a 12 month community corrections order when she fronted Judge Flannery in the Port Macquarie District Court on Friday December 6.
There were also several conditions placed on Connors at sentencing.
Connors pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office, engaging in an intimate relationship with an inmate under her authority as a correctional officer. The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years' jail.
The offences occurred between July 2, 2018 and July 22, 2018 at the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre at Aldavilla, near Kempsey.
In sentencing Connors, Judge Flannery said that Connors "had become a pariah in her community" and that "she deeply regrets and is embarrassed by her actions".
"You are convicted and will serve a community corrections order rather than serving a jail sentence," Judge Flannery said.
"There are good prospects of rehabilitation and I accept she has shown remorse for her offending and has accepted responsibility for her actions.
"I consider this is at the relatively low level example of this charge. There were no weapons introduced, no contraband (brought into the jail) and no money entered into the inmate's prison account.
"The relationship (with the inmate) was inter-dependent, there was care and trust and commitment. However, there was a failure by Connors to declare the relationship which included unscheduled meetings with the inmate.
"This was an intimate but not sexual relationship," Judge Flannery said.
Defence counsel Mr Conwell tabled several reports along with a bundle of media reports which were "grossly inaccurate and hurtful".
"Ms Connors has been the subject of intense media attention from early on; she has been harassed in the street; she has been ridiculed; there has been inaccurate reporting - including being reportedly pregnant to the inmate; reportedly regularly had sex with the inmate on the night shift and the media is even camped inside and outside this court today," he said.
"Ms Connors does see herself as a victim (in light of the media speculation). However, she knows she has done the wrong thing. She has disappointed herself.
"She has paid a significant price and will continue to do so," he said.
Prosecutor John Stanhope told the court the Crown believes the character of the inmate involved in the relationship should be considered (in the sentencing).
He said the offender placed herself in a real conflict of interest.
"It makes no difference if this was an intimate or sexual relationship," he said.
"The fact is that this relationship continued through much of July."
Connors used the alias "Lydia" to hide her relationship with the inmate at a correctional facility.
Corrections officers were asked to monitor Connors interactions with the inmate and report any suspicious behaviour. Her shifts were changed to enable monitoring and minimise risk.
Systems were also put in place to conduct observations of Connors and the inmate and their interactions.
Those observations included the use of CCTV system that allowed live tracking and zooming in to specific areas, where available.
Connors was suspended from duties on July 20, 2018 and formally resigned on July 22, 2018.
As well as serving the community corrections order, Judge Flannery also ordered Connors, not to commit any other offences during the 12 months CCO, return to court if required, undertake supervision by Corrective Services NSW as required and report to Corrective Services NSW.