A WOMAN care support worker from Ebbw Vale who had an illicit affair with a female patient has been spared jail.

Claire Rowson, who moved from Nantyglo to work at a nursing home in Essex in 2007, even gave the patient who she had a two-year secret affair with an engagement ring, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.

Rowson, 28, of Attlee Road, Nantyglo, and the patient had genuine affection for each other, the court heard.

Rowson had pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to engaging in sexual activity with a woman with a mental disorder between January 2009 and March 2013 and with inciting a woman in sexual activity.

Judge John Dodd QC sentenced her to 12 months in prison but suspended it for two years. He also ordered Rowson to be under two years' supervision and to carry out 180 hours unpaid work. She must sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

Passing sentence, the judge told Rowson there were "unusual and exceptional" circumstances to the case which enabled him to suspend the sentence.

He said: "You were away from home and a lonely young woman yourself.

He added: "Psychiatric evidence is that the patient was perfectly able, despite her difficulties, to enter into adult relationships.

"You have worked as a carer for a number of years. This is difficult and demanding work and you have made a valuable contribution to society.

"You have admitted a serious breach of the trust placed in you as a carer. You were dealing with a vulnerable young woman, you had been warned by staff, yet even after your first suspension, you continued the relationship. You failed to recognise professional boundaries.

"But I am satisfied you are most unlikely to reoffend."

Prosecutor Kate Davey said the patient said she and Rowson "did relationship stuff" when they went horse riding, in bushes, in the laundry area and in locations in the nursing home.

Jeffrey Jones for the defence said Rowson resigned in April 2012 and had returned home to Wales when she was arrested in July 2012. She was now working in a completely different job.

He told the court: "It was a clandestine affair because she knew it was wrong, but it was a clandestine affair with genuine affection on both sides."