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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Andrew Bardsley

He's a very bad influence on you'... Prison nurse who struck up relationship with drug boss inmate lived luxury lifestyle, splashing cash on designer clothes and an Audi A5

A mum who lived an 'extravagant' lifestyle funded by her drug boss boyfriend avoided jail as a judge told her the career criminal had 'ruined her life'. Georgia Harkness, 27, began a relationship with Salford drug dealer Ashley Blackett after they met in prison, while he was serving time and she worked as a prison nurse.

Harkness, the daughter of former Liverpool footballer Steve Harkness, had Blackett's baby and helped him continue to run his criminal empire while he was behind bars. Blackett, who was last month jailed for 12-and-half years, arranged for money to be sent to her so she could splash out on designer clothes and jewellery and drive an Audi A5.

She desperately tried to hide the extent of her involvement by refusing to tell police her phone's PIN number, but they eventually cracked the device and discovered incriminating material. Harkness, who was supported at court by her father, who played more than 100 games for Liverpool in the 1990s, avoided jail after a judge said she had no previous convictions, that she looks after her young child and ruled that she can be rehabilitated.

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"Ashley Blackett has ruined your life, to a large extent," Judge Nicholas Dean KC told her. "Though you are intelligent you seem to be completely blind to Ashley Blackett's true character."

Manchester Crown Court heard that Harkness provided a character reference for Blackett at his court hearing, and that their relationship appears to be 'ongoing'.

"He professes, no doubt, to care for you and love you, but he has used you," the judge continued. "It is not for me to try to persuade you to abandon that relationship, but everybody who is close to you recognises that Ashley Blackett is a very bad influence on you. He is a career and committed criminal."

The court was told that she and Blackett, 35, first met in 2017 at HMP Risley in Warrington. She became pregnant with his child during a brief spell when he had been released.

Ashley Blackett (GMP)

He was later recalled to prison and directed drug dealing from his prison cell using illegal phones. His brother Wesley Blackett, and his right-hand man Christopher Taylor, supplied cocaine and heroin on the outside on Blackett's behalf. Investigators poured over Blackett's financial records and found that Harkness had sent him more than £1,000 during a nine month period in 2019, via his prison payment system.

She bought him expensive designer clothes and he paid for gifts which he sent her, prosecutor Joe Allman said. She was also involved in money laundering by transferring funds into different accounts, he said.

Mr Allman said that Harkness was 'living way beyond her means' and indulging in 'extravagant' spending. When police went to her home, they found £34,000 worth of designer clothes, and jewellery worth £13,000.

Bank records showed she'd purchased items from designer stores including Tessuti and Flannels. Mr Allman said there was evidence to show that Blackett had paid for her rent every month, even though he was behind bars.

Harkness was supported at court by her father Steve who used to play for Liverpool FC (Manchester Evening News)

Steroids worth £2,000 were also found during the search. Harkness was arrested in July 2020. She refused to tell the police her PIN but they independently gained access to it.

Harkness, from St Helens, pleaded guilty to possessing criminal property, transferring criminal property, possession with intent to supply testosterone, a class C drug, and failing to comply with a section 49 by not telling police the PIN number to her mobile phone. "You have pleaded guilty to serious offences," Judge Dean told her during Friday's sentencing hearing.

"You come from a good positive and supportive family. You describe yourself as a good nurse, I have no doubt you were."

Her mother said that if Harkness had not met Blackett she 'would never have become involved in illegal activity', the court heard. But the judge told the defendant: "You must have recognised that what you were doing was wrong.

Christopher Taylor (GMP)

"You must have recognised that you were supporting Ashley Blackett in his unlawful activity. It may be to a certain extent you enjoyed the lifestyle he facilitated for you, I don't know.

"It is hard to understand why you persisted in behaving the way that you did." Harkness was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

She will face a further hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act later this year, where prosecutors will seek to claw back her ill-gotten gains. At a separate hearing last month, Ashley Blackett was jailed after pleading guilty to conspiring to supply Class A drugs and possessing a mobile phone in prison.

Christopher Taylor, 34, of no fixed abode, was jailed for seven years, and Wesley Blackett, 37, of North George Street, Salford, was jailed for five-and-a-half years. Both men admitted involvement in the drugs conspiracy.


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