Category Archives: Legal cases brought by prison staff
The Ministry of Justice was not liable in negligence for psychiatric injury suffered by three prison officers as a result of an incident in which the escape of a prisoner (Joe Farnan above) whom they had been asked to guard had been secured with threats and a weapon.
(1) ROBERT BURN (2) WAYNE ASHMEAD DE MANN (3) ANN MARIE SHALLOE v MINISTRY OF JUSTICE (2012)
 EWHC 876 (QB) QBD 04/04/2012
PERSONAL INJURY – NEGLIGENCE - PENOLOGY AND CRIMINOLOGY
BREACH OF DUTY OF CARE : ESCAPING : PRISON OFFICERS : PRISON SERVICE : PRISONERS : PSYCHIATRIC HARM : PRISON OFFICERS SEEKING DAMAGES FOR PSYCHIATRIC INJURY ARISING FROM PRISONER’S ESCAPE : WHETHER NEGLIGENCE ESTABLISHED
The claimant prison officers (B) brought a claim in negligence against the defendant Ministry, alleging that they had suffered psychiatric injury as a result of witnessing the escape of a prisoner (F) whom they had been asked to guard.
F had feigned an epileptic fit in his cell. As a result, a prison doctor (P) examined him and directed that he be taken to hospital. When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, two of F’s associates secured his release with the aid of threats. Both wore masks. One had a handgun and the other a pair of bolt croppers. Some four weeks previously, F had feigned epilepsy and been taken to hospital in what turned out to be a dummy run for his later escape.
HELD: B had carried out a difficult duty well and bravely on the day in question. However, negligence had not been established. The decision to transfer a prisoner to a hospital was a medical one to be taken by a prison doctor and could not be overriden. The decision taken by P to transfer F to hospital was not one which no reasonably competent prison doctor in the circumstances would have taken. P had been put in a very difficult position. He had been unable to make a definitive diagnosis but had plainly made some enquiries of the wing staff about F. Further, a fellow prison doctor had directed F’s transfer to hospital on the previous occasion when he had feigned epilepsy, having, like P, been unable to reach a definitive diagnosis (see paras 42, 52-54 of judgment).
Judgment for defendant.