Friday 22 February 2019

€4.5m paid out to injured prison officers in 4 years

Derek Brockwell, who escaped from custody by stabbing two prison officers in Tallaght
Derek Brockwell, who escaped from custody by stabbing two prison officers in Tallaght

Emma Jane Hade and Sam Griffin

Almost €4.5m has been paid out in compensation to prison officers who were assaulted or injured in the workplace over the last four years.

Since 2011, 273 applications have been made to the 'Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted on Prison Officers' - an average of more than one claim per week.

Officers were subjected to horrific assaults while on duty, with some bitten and stabbed in the course of their work, according to documents released to the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act.

The range of injuries and complaints submitted by officers includes stabbings, assaults, exposure to blood and saliva, as well as attacks with needles.

Others who received compensation had sustained injuries through crimes of arson, when they were "attempting to save a life" or "attempting to prevent a crime".

Many have also suffered from post-traumatic stress in the wake of these attacks.

While 273 applications have been made to the compensation scheme in the last four years, there have been 245 payments made since 2011.

Responding to the figures last night, Prison Officers Association chief Jim Mitchell said the number of assaults on officers "far exceeded the figures indicated".

"In 2013 alone, there were around 160 assaults on prison staff. These figures probably reflect the more serious attacks and this is reflected in the payouts.

"But they do outline the dangers faced by prison officers in their line of work on a daily basis," he said.

He added the more serious injuries usually came about when prison officers attempted to intervene in fights between prisoners, while the post traumatic stress complaints "often stemmed from incidents where officers are attacked with needles or come in contact with blood".

"We have had cases where prisoners will bite the inside of their mouth and then spit it out on officers.

"The reference to arson could be where a prisoner intentionally sets their cell on fire and our members have to go in and get them out," he said.

Some 74 injured officers made applications for compensation in 2011 and 77 payments were made that year, coming to a total of €999,044.38.

The following year €1,686,862.31 was paid in compensation by the scheme, and 53 applications were made the same year.

The number of applications for compensation has increased over the last two years. In 2013, there were 69 claims made under the scheme and this figure rose to 77 last year.

Some 46 payments totalling €977,718.20 were made last year, and in 2013 48 claimants received €816,441.66.

Details of the payouts emerged as two prison officers continue to recover from serious stab wounds they sustained in an attack carried out by prisoner Derek Brockwell at Tallaght Hospital last week. He had been escorted there from Portlaoise Prison.

Irish Independent

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