A Norfolk prison officer, who suffered horrendous head injuries and psychological trauma after being violently attacked by a prison inmate, has secured a six-figure compensation settlement with the help of his trade union, the Prison Officers Association (POA), and Thompsons Solicitors.


Derek Walker, 48, from Norfolk, was brutally attacked by a prisoner at HMP Wayland, near Thetford, in July 2017. The prisoner was subsequently convicted of attempted murder in July 2019.

Mr Walker was injured as he attempted to restrain the prisoner, who was assaulting another prisoner with a makeshift weapon.

He sustained a significant head injury and was left with a gaping wound that required 27 stitches. Mr Walker was rushed Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to save his life.


A prison officer holding a certificate for bravery
Derek Walker was awarded a certificate for his bravery

He later turned to his union, the POA, who put him in contact with personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons built a case that showed the prison service had failed to properly assess the risk presented by the inmate or take the necessary steps to reduce those risks.

Prior to the assault, there was strong evidence that the inmate was a violent and noncompliant prisoner. He had previously been found improvising weapons, including razor blades, and there were several examples of his involvement with gangs, bullying and drug trafficking. He was of concern due to links with radicalisation and for holding extremist views.

It was part of the claim that the prisoner ought to have been referred to the intelligence services sooner. Additionally, Thompsons’ legal team argued that his behaviour on the morning of the assault should have resulted in him being confined to his cell pending review, and the decision to provide him with multiple razor blades was a breach by the prison services of their duty of care.

In addition to the horrific injuries Mr Walker sustained to the front and back of his head, the attack also left him with severe nerve and eye pain.

The incident exacerbated pre-existing PTSD, forcing him off work for 18 months and ultimately resulting in him being unable to return to frontline prison officer work.

Mr Walker said: “I’ll never forget that day. The attack has scarred me for life, both physically and psychologically. What makes things worse is that the incident was completely avoidable.

“There were numerous red flags concerning the offender, which the prison service decided to ignore. My colleagues and I should never have been put in such acute danger. The prison service needs to learn from my experience and put in place the necessary safeguards so that this type of incident doesn’t happen to other prison officers.”

To compound issues, while preparing for the criminal case, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) disclosed Mr Walker’s personal details including his home address to the inmate’s legal team.

The additional stress this caused for Mr Walker was the subject of a separate psychological injury claim by Thompsons against the CPS.

He added: “The whole ordeal has been horrendous but I’m glad I had my union and Thompsons Solicitors looking out for me – I don’t know how I would have coped without them. I was kept well-informed during the legal process and was particularly happy when my case settled out of court, meaning I didn’t have to go through the added stress of court proceedings.”

David Mole, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “What Mr Walker has experienced, due to the actions of an inmate known to the prison authorities to have a history of violent behaviour, is truly unthinkable.

“Following the attack, Mr Walker was awarded the Royal Humane Society bronze medal for bravery, but that is scant consolation for all he went through.

No amount of money can erase the pain and suffering he has and continues to experience, but we hope the settlement will at least allow him to move on with his life.

“Cases such as this show the value of POA membership with the union taking on cases that claim companies and no win/no fee solicitors would not.

“The prison service must reflect on this case, learn from it and bring about change that prioritises the wellbeing of prison officers.”