A former prison worker has been awarded £140,000 after a six-year legal battle with a prison service following an injury that ended her career.

While working at a London young offender’s institute, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) member had been restraining a prisoner after a fight had broken out.

The two prisoners involved in the altercation had been placed on ‘separate unlock’, meaning that they should not have been free to associate with one another. The prison worker warned her colleague of the restriction, but the prisoners were still released at the same time.

As the fight broke out the POA member fell onto a stairwell, bending her right hand forward. She instantly suffered pain and was taken straight to hospital.

She had a number of x-rays to identify the injury to her hand, and was eventually diagnosed with a neurological condition called complex regional pain syndrome. The prison worker was not able to move her right hand for a year.

She returned to work on interim light duties after four weeks of recovery. However, her light duties meant that she still had to handle keys, despite the pain to her hand.

Unable to do the job on reduced duties, she was offered another position in the prison service by her employer but this would have reduced her salary by more than £10,000, which she could not afford to take and so her employment at the prison service ended.

Six years later she still experiences flare-ups and takes medication for the neurological symptoms.

After her accident she contacted her trade union, the POA, who instructed Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a claim on her behalf.

The case was contested by the prison service who denied liability until weeks before trial. Thompsons Solicitors pursued a claim on the basis that the prison service was liable for the negligent acts of the colleague who had failed to observe procedure following a fight involving prisoners, and, in so doing, led directly to the injury occurring.

A joint settlement of £140,000 compensation was agreed days before the case was due to go to Court.

The former prison worker said: “As a member of the POA, I had access to legal experts who fought my corner for years.

“Without the help of Thompsons Solicitors I really wouldn’t have been able to keep going or believe that I had a chance of actually settling the case.

“I’ve now retrained as a family advocate and I am helping young and vulnerable individuals in a different way. I’ve only been able to do this because of the settlement.”

Glyn Travis, from the POA, said: “This case is a clear reminder of why being a member of a trade union is so important, especially when you’re employed in frontline services. Our member was forced to leave her profession and fight for more than six years to receive the compensation she deserved.

“Her trade union membership meant that she was fully supported during an ordeal, which was prolonged by the unhelpful attitude of the National Offender Management Services’ who seem to resist claims in the hope that people will give up trying to get justice. As this case shows, the POA won’t give up and will pursue cases all the way.”

Nicola Saunders, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The length of time this case took to resolve is typical of the manner the prison service defends such cases. I am delighted that through perseverance, and support from the POA, a positive outcome has been delivered for our client who has since been able to retrain and begin work in a new profession.”