Probation officer who had sexual relationship with client is jailed

Anthony Down was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Laura Nicholls was jailed at Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Charlotte Bond

A Suffolk probation officer who engaged in a sexual relationship with a client and then lied to police has been jailed. 

Laura Nicholls, 29, began the sexual relationship with the man in June last year after the pair started sending "flirtatious" messages to each other, Ipswich Crown Court heard. 

Philip Farr, prosecuting, said Nicholls, who was based in Bury St Edmunds, was aware of the rules of conduct for a probation officer and in one message wrote: "My professionalism is out of the window". 

On June 26/27, Mr Farr said the man texted Nicholls and asked where she lived with a view to coming over. 

Mr Farr said there was some initial "reticence" from Nicholls before she confirmed it was okay. 

"From that moment on, it was clear the two were in a sexual relationship," Mr Farr told the court. 

He said sexually explicit messages were exchanged and the relationship continued for three months until the offending came to light in September. 

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The court heard that the man was pulled over by police and arrested on September 30, 2020, driving Nicholls' car. 

No charges were brought but in interview, the man made disclosures to the police and was able to prove he was telling the truth about the relationship. 

He directed police to an overnight bag which would be in Nicholls' kitchen and provided a set of house keys for her home, Mr Farr told the court. 

Nicholls told police that she had never given the man permission to take her car and was unsure how he had her home address. 

Nicholls, of Fuller Way, Stowmarket, previously pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office between June and October last year and doing an act tending or intended to pervert the course of justice by making a false statement to police. 

Two other offences of misconduct in a public office were ordered to lie on the court file.

The mother-of-one, who had been a probation officer since 2019 until her suspension, was of previous good character, the court heard.  

She was supported by several family members in the public gallery. 

Ed Renvoize, mitigating, said Nicholls had made a "terrible error of judgement" but that she understood it was almost inevitable she would go to jail. 

"Often advocates will say 'as a result of this case she has lost everything'," Mr Renvoize said. 

"In this case, it is apt. But the one thing she has not lost is the support of her family." 

Judge Martyn Levett told Nicholls she had let her personal feelings overcome her professionalism. 

He added that various reports came to the conclusion that she was "not suited to managing offenders". 

Judge Levett jailed Nicholls for a total of 12 months and she will serve half of her sentence in custody before being released on licence.