A Lincolnshire prison officer who denied “tipping off” a life inmate before he went on the run from an open jail has been cleared of misconduct in public office.
Richard Goodwin, 41, was alleged to have “forewarned” life prisoner Brian McBride, 54, that he was about to be moved to a tougher jail.
McBride was serving his life sentence for sex offences, at North Sea Camp open jail, near Boston, when he fled from his regular work placement at a local church.
The prosecution alleged Mr Goodwin, who liased with prisoner work placements, had contacted McBride after learning he was shortly going to be transferred to closed conditions at Lincoln Prison.
But a jury at Lincoln Crown Court took less than two hours to clear Mr Goodwin, from Skegness, of misconduct in public office after a seven-day trial.
The jury heard McBride, who was given a life sentence in 1997, was on his regular work placement at the Centenary Methodist Church in Boston when he went missing on June 25, 2019.
He spent two days at large and was found more than 30 miles away travelling in a car in the Lincolnshire seaside resort of Mablethorpe.
McBride was returned to jail and sentenced to an extra four months imprisonment after he admitted being unlawfully at large.
Richard Thatcher, prosecuting, alleged McBride had been tipped off by Mr Goodwin after he was present at a governor’s meeting at which his status was discussed.
The prosecution claimed there were also 284 calls or attempted calls between Mr Goodwin and Brian McBride in the three-and-half months before his escape.
Mr Thatcher asked the jury: “To put it another way 13-and-half hours of voice calls.
“What on earth were they talking about?”
But Chris Jeyes, defending Goodwin, told the court there was “no evidence at all” of the content of the conversations between the two men, and described the case as “purely circumstantial”.
Mr Jeyes added that witness accounts of the meeting where McBride’s status was spoken about varied widely on both the content and if indeed Mr Goodwin was present, with poor records kept.
Mr Goodwin chose not to give evidence at his trial, but the jury was told during his police interviews he maintained they engaged in a normal ‘prisoner-prison officer’ relationship.
The court heard a section of his police interviews were also lost after they failed to record.