A prison officer left with debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after being violently assaulted by an inmate has secured a significant sum of compensation with the help of the Prison Officers Association (POA).

Marc Laycock, a POA member for 20 years, was employed at HM Young Offenders Institute Stoke Heath in Market Drayton at the time of the incident. As part of his duties, Mr Laycock was escorting some inmates back to their cells following a period of respite known as an ‘association hour’.

At the same time, another 35 inmates had just finished their ‘exercise hour’ and were also being escorted back to their cells.

According to the system in place at the prison, there should have been two officers with each group of inmates. However a senior officer had sent Marc’s colleague away to fetch a tea trolley and the two officers who had been escorting the other group of inmates left the wing - leaving Marc on his own.

Attacked without warning

An inmate, who had been escorted by the other two officers and then left unsupervised, assaulted Marc without warning after refusing to return to his cell. Marc suffered a series of brutal blows before managing to the send an alert via his radio.

In the time it took other officers to come to his aid, Marc had been dragged approximately 15 metres along the prison landing and was grasped in a headlock being repeatedly punched.

As a result of the incident, Marc suffered a fractured cheekbone and soft-tissue injuries to his elbow, wrist, hand and neck. In addition to the physical injuries sustained, Marc also suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which was so debilitating, he was forced to retire.

Prior to the incident the POA had already raised a number of concerns about the level of staffing on the wing with management at the prison which had fallen on deaf ears. Further failings by the management included not alerting Marc to the fact that the prisoner who assaulted him had a history of threatening behaviour and had previously attempted assaults against staff and inmates.

Marc contacted the POA for support and launched a case for damages with Thompsons Solicitors.

The argument in the case (which was denied by the Ministry of Justice until a settlement was reached shortly before trial) was that, in allowing Marc to deal with so many inmates without the support of colleagues, the prison had breached its own “Safe System of Work”.

Returning to work impossible

Marc Laycock said: “I was a bomb disposal specialist in the Army and stressful incidents were something I took in my stride but what happened that day made the idea of returning to work as a prison officer impossible. I couldn’t carry on and have missed out on a good 15 years of a job and career that I loved.”

Glyn Travis of the POA said: “Marc should never have had been left on his own. Because the prison’s own procedure wasn’t taken seriously, Marc became embroiled in a violent incident that has had a terrible impact on his life. Proper compensation is one thing, and we are pleased we secured that for Marc, but he has lost a career and a good prison officer has been forced to leave the profession.”

Richard Cartwright of Thompsons Solicitors said: “Paper procedures don’t keep prison officers or inmates safe in what are often volatile situations unless they are enforced by prison management and implemented by officers.”