Iain Fleming, a POA member for twenty years, was employed in the Segregation Unit at HMP Swaleside in Eastchurch, Kent. Iain was working in the canteen area of the wing when one inmate, armed with two sharpened plastic knives, launched himself at one of Iain’s colleagues and attempted to stab him in the head.

Vicious attack

Iain attempted to restrain the inmate but, in the struggle that followed, he was stabbed five times, including an attempt by the inmate to gouge out his right eye, before other colleagues arrived on the scene and intervened.

Mr Fleming suffered stab wounds to the head and eye, both of his arms, his right shoulder and to his chest. He also developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the months following the incident. Iain has since recovered from his psychological injuries but the damage done to his shoulder has ended his career as a prison officer.

Employer denied liability

HMP Swaleside denied all liability for Iain’s injuries after the assault. However an investigation by Thompsons found that the inmate’s previous behaviour had aroused concern from other members of staff – something which should have led to the prison taking out extra security measures – which went un-dealt with by management.

Basic safety precautions not followed

The inmate had previously been caught with an internet browsing device, something which is strictly prohibited in the prison and had been found to have planned an escape. He had also requested staff to provide him with a metal knife, expressed serious extremist views and had made threats to staff. This type of behaviour would normally have led to the prisoner being placed on the ‘E-list’ which would have meant three members of staff, rather than two, escorting the inmate whenever he was outside his cell.

However, this did not happen and the inmate was only escorted by the standard allocation of two guards from his cell to the canteen where he carried out his attack.

Iain Fleming said: "Being a Prison Officer can be a dangerous job but nobody should go to work and get stabbed. The attack appeared to come completely out of nowhere but I now know that the prison ignored obvious signs that this inmate was a danger to others. Because they made the choice to ignore that I was attacked and I can no longer enjoy my life the way I used to.

"HMP Swaleside tried to blame the incident on me from the start, and I cannot thank POA and Thompsons enough for helping me to hold my employers to account."

Glyn Travis of the POA said: "This incident should never have been allowed to happen. An inmate launched a savage attack which has forced a good officer out of the profession because the prison didn’t follow its own safety procedures. We are pleased to have helped secure compensation for Iain, but remain perplexed at how the prison failed to take action before the inmate was able to carry out his attack."

Christalla Christodoulidou of Thompsons Solicitors said: "It is one thing to have a set of procedures to keep staff and prisoners safe, but procedures are useless unless they are followed and implemented by staff. This was a violent attack which forced our client Iain to leave his career early following devastating injuries.

“It could all have been avoided had HMP Swaleside followed their own guidelines on how to treat prisoners who pose a danger to officers and other inmates."