News

Former Dhurringile prison officer jailed

By Charmayne Allison

A former Dhurringile prison officer who trafficked tobacco behind bars and sought an intimate relationship with an inmate has been sentenced to six months in jail.

Tracie Ann Badcock, 47, of Rochester, appeared in Echuca Magistrates’ Court yesterday to discover her fate after pleading guilty to misconduct in public office and bribery of a public official.

In January, the court heard Badcock had received seven payments totalling $2358 over a year to smuggle tobacco products into the minimum security prison for four inmates.

A number of handwritten letters between her and a male prisoner were also found in her bedroom, describing physical contact between the two and indicating Badcock was seeking an intimate relationship with him.

Tobacco has become valuable in jails after smoking was banned in prisons in 2014.

Magistrate Jelena Popovic said Badcock’s offences were a ‘‘very serious’’ example of bribery.

‘‘The community places a high amount of trust in its custodial officers and this cannot be breached,’’ she said.

‘‘Mostly when I sentence, I look at deterrence. But in this case, I don’t believe the need for specific deterrence is high — it’s unlikely Ms Badcock will offend again.

‘‘But we do need to look at general deterrence ... there are 1000 prison officers, it’s a small network and they will take heed of what the sentence is and may moderate their behaviour accordingly.’’

Badcock’s lawyer Matt Mahady said his client sought relationships with inmates and their families because they ‘‘showed her attention and were interested in her’’.

But Ms Popovic believed personal gain was attached to the bribery charges.

‘‘Payment was received for the contraband items, it’s not as if there was some altruistic reason for her doing it,’’ she said.

Mr Mahady also shared his client’s struggles with mental illness and Ms Popovic said she had taken these into account when determining the sentence.

‘‘Given Ms Badcock’s vulnerability due to her mental health and how that could impact her in custody, I believe six months is sufficient to address the gravity of this offending,’’ she said.

‘‘But I don’t accept this degree of depression and anxiety is enough to avoid a prison sentence. And a community corrections order alone will not suffice.

‘‘Although given Ms Badcock’s issues with alcohol and drugs, I believe the 12-month corrections order will not only be additional punishment, but will also help with rehabilitation considerations.’’

Once released from jail, she will be ordered to complete a 12-month CCO.

An application for bail was accepted, with Badcock to appeal in the Bendigo County Court at a later date.