A prison officer, who was violently attacked by a prisoner at Her Majesty’s Young Offender’s Institute Wetherby, has received compensation with the help of his union, the Prison Officers Association (POA), and Thompsons Solicitors.
Keith Nyberg, 54, was carrying out a routine check in the inmate’s cell when the prisoner became aggressive and threatening. Keith attempted to restrain the prisoner but was violently attacked, receiving a bite to the chest, punches to his face, kicks to the lower body, attempts to gouge his eyes and also injuries to his shoulder, neck, lower back and left leg.
Keith’s employers failed to warn him about the significant risk posed by this particular prisoner and there was no protocol in place to minimise the risk. Keith was left in a vulnerable position.
Long term psychological symptoms
After the attack, Keith suffered long-term psychological symptoms. After more than 20 years in the prison service Keith was forced to retire on medical grounds.
Doctors diagnosed him with an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, and working in the prison service became too traumatic for him.
Keith contacted the POA who put him in touch with Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a compensation claim on his behalf.
Prisoner known to be violent
Keith said: “The Prison Service should have done a lot more to make sure that I was protected. This prisoner was known to be very violent and his location in the establishment while being in a volatile state meant that he posed a significant risk to staff. Although he was known to managers at Wetherby to be unpredictable with a history of violence towards staff, no protocol was in place for his management.
“I was working in an unfamiliar environment during a period of detached duty and had not been properly briefed. I was not warned about the prisoner’s violent history and, subsequently, wasn't aware of the high level of risk to me and other officers. That failure meant a high degree of personal anxiety and suffering, and ultimately led to me leaving a profession that I had worked in for over 24 years. I am now unable to take up similar employment or indeed any employment likely to expose me to confrontation of any kind.
37% increase in serious assaults
“Thankfully, the compensation Thompsons Solicitors secured for me has given me a degree of financial stability, after such a traumatic experience, despite my loss of earnings.”
Glyn Travis, from POA, said: “We are seeing an increase in the number of incidents where prison officers are attacked while carrying out their job, which can have devastating consequences. In the last 12 months alone there has been a 37% increase in the number of prison officers subject to serious assaults.
“In the worst cases, as with Keith, people are forced to give up their jobs as a result of the long-term consequences of a vicious assault. This government is only making matters worse by cutting funding for the prison service, forcing reduced numbers of staff and poorer safety conditions for prison workers.”
Trevor Hall, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “What happened to Keith is a clear example of how vulnerable prison officers are to the risk of sustaining a serious injury. Their safety needs must be of paramount importance. This incident shows a failing to ensure basic workplace safety standards, which seems incomprehensible given the nature of the work. The real risk without proper structures and proper funding is yet more traumatic assaults.”
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