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  1. ITV Report

Durham prison officer convicted over attempt to stop witness in Medomsley trials

Medomsley Detention Centre housed young offenders between the 1960s and 1980s. Credit: Tyne Tees Television

A prison officer who emailed a governor asking him to have "a quiet word" with a guard who had given evidence at a series of abuse trials against fellow officers has been convicted of perverting the course of justice.

John McGee, 50, sent the email in support of his father, who was jailed for his part in the mistreatment of inmates at Medomsley Detention Centre in the 1970s.

McGee, who admitted he hero-worshipped his father, who is also called John, will now lose his job at the maximum-security Frankland Prison where he has worked for more than 20 years.

The jury at Durham Crown Court convicted him of a single count of perverting the course of justice.

John McGee and his father outside court last year Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Judge James Adkin, who adjourned sentence to allow for reports to be prepared, told jurors: "Ultimately he is a man who has not been in a lot of trouble before and was under a great deal of stress at the time."

McGee had sent an email to Phil Husband, the number one governor of Durham Prison, in January 2019 after his father was convicted at Teesside Crown Court.

A Durham Prison officer called Hugh Cockburn had given evidence at two trials, including his father's, and was due to go in the witness box at a third trial of former Medomsley officers accused of abusing young inmates.

McGee wrote that Mr Cockburn had been "sticking the boot in" by giving evidence, adding: "If I had my way he would be dealt with if you know what I mean."

The email continued: "Now it's not for me to say anything Phil, but a quiet word in his ear would be a good idea."

McGee wrote that his father had been cleared of 12 counts by the jury but convicted of misconduct, describing that verdict as "bloody rubbish".

Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, told the jury on Wednesday: "This was a bold attempt by John McGee junior to put Mr Cockburn off. In his view, it was wrong for a prison officer to take the side of ex-inmates in the trial of ex-officers.

"He wanted Mr Cockburn's boss to have a word with him."

In his defence, McGee told jurors that sending the email was a "moment of madness" that came as he was feeling emotional after his father had been convicted, and he did not believe Mr Husband, with whom he had trained in the mid-1990s, would act on the message.

Robin Patton, defending, said: "His situation is now very difficult. He will lose his job."

The defendant, from Burnopfield, County Durham, was granted bail ahead of sentencing on March 26.