A MAN who helped his partner escape from a prison near York has avoided an immediate jail sentence himself.

Kulvat Bhangal, 43, pleaded guilty to assisting Natasha Richards to escape from Askham Grange Prison, but said he tried to convince her to hand herself in.

York Crown Court heard Ms Richards had been transferred to the prison for the final weeks of a burglary sentence, but “struggled to cope with the regime change” as she was no longer in her own cell, but in dormitory-style accommodation.

She had been in a relationship with Bhangal for a number of months, and when he visited on November 17, suggested she could escape the jail with him.

The court heard Bhangal – of Countess Street, Walsall – tried to dissuade her, but waited in the car park after his visit. Ms Richards climbed a small perimeter fence and got into the car before they drove on the A1 towards Bradford.

Twenty minutes after they left the prison, police officers pulled over the car, and both were arrested, despite Ms Richards taking full responsibility.

Ben Campbell, for Bhangal, said his client has lost his previous good character due to the offence, and was the “more vulnerable of the two”, but had tried to convince Ms Richards to hand herself in at a nearby police station.

Mr Campbell said: “He recommended to her a sensible course of action.

“He’s a man who finds his heart in the right place but on this occasion bent to the will of somebody whose was not.”

Recorder Michelle Heeley told Bhangal: “One must respect the prison system. When Natasha Richards asked you to assist her, you at least tried to dissuade her from it.

“Whatever your motivation, from the heart, it was still a very foolish thing to do.”

Bhangal was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.