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Prison officer loses claim for compensation over hostage situation

Sian Edlington, pictured, is suing the Ministry of Justice for £350,000 claiming she had to end her career as a prison officer because she was left traumatised after being taken hostage by a violent inmate in 2013

A prison officer who sued after her career was ended by the trauma of being taken hostage has lost her £350,000 damages bid – because her ‘extremely violent’ attacker was not dangerous enough.

Sian Edlington, 35, was working at HMP Woodhill, in Milton Keynes, when she was held captive by the man, who had a history of aggression towards officers.

In June 2013, having cut communication wires, he went into the office where she was working with a male colleague and claimed to have a blade.

The prisoner – referred to in court as SF – said he had a ‘shank’ on him, threatened to ‘strangle slowly’ Miss Edlington and to stab her fellow officer.

The incident was over in ten minutes, but Miss Edlington, from Northampton, said the trauma she suffered resulted in the end of her career in the Prison Service.

She sued the Ministry of Justice for £350,000, claiming not enough was done to protect her from an ‘out of control’ prisoner with a history of hostage-taking.

But after a four-day hearing at Central London County Court, Judge David Saunders today dismissed her claim after finding the inmate was not unusually dangerous.

Earlier, the court had heard that the man had 19 previous assault charges on his record, was considered a risk to female staff and had once taken a hostage.

Ms Edlington blamed the MoJ for the 10-minute ordeal and said bosses did not do enough to protect her from the unnamed inmate, who was a 'known risk'

Ms Edlington blamed the MoJ for the 10-minute ordeal and said bosses did not do enough to protect her from the unnamed inmate, who was a ‘known risk’

He also had 93 adjudications against his name in prison, but Judge Saunders said that did not make him exceptional in a dangerous place like HMP Woodhill.

‘He was not an exceptional prisoner, there is nothing which places him out of the ordinary,’ said the judge.

‘The risk that SF posed didn’t require special treatment or special resources outside of those already in place.

‘It is a Category A prison, where the minority, but still a substantial minority, were Category A prisoners.

‘SF’s record was not exceptional. Sadly, in a Category A prison, these incidents are commonplace.

‘There is nothing, in my view, that required additional steps to be taken.’

Miss Edlington’s barrister, Michael Nicholson, had argued that special measures should have been taken to protect staff from the man.

But despite his history, a ‘hostage taker flag’ was not recorded against his name and warnings were not given, he said.

The incident happened at HMP Woodhill, pictured, in Milton Keynes in June 2013

The incident happened at HMP Woodhill, pictured, in Milton Keynes in June 2013

Dismissing her claim, the judge said it was accepted that Miss Edlington’s ordeal had caused the end of her career.

However, it was not down to any negligence on the part of the Ministry of Justice.

She had methods of raising the alarm when threatened, a baton to protect herself, and was trained to deal with such dangerous situations.

‘In this instant, the training actually worked,’ he continued.

‘Miss Edlington and her colleague were able to de-escalate the confrontation in what I find to be 10 minutes.

‘In my view, the MoJ made sure staff were trained in these techniques and that seems to have been followed through.

‘Miss Edlington and her colleague acted in an exemplary fashion and should be commended and appreciated for what they did.’

Her damages claim was rejected.

Attacks on prison staff soar to the highest levels ever recorded as more inmates are self-harming, report reveals

Attacks on prison staff rose 15 per cent in a year, while self-harm incidents in jails reached a new record level, official figures show.

Assaults behind bars hit a new high of 34,425 in the 12 months to March 2019, up 11 per cent from the previous year, and a rate of 415 incidents per 1,000 prisoners.

There were 10,311 attacks on staff – the highest since comparable records began, a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) report showed.

Of those, 1,002 assaults were classed as ‘serious’ – such as those which require medical treatment or result in fractures, burns, or extensive bruising – an increase of 12 per cent from 2017/18.

The MoJ report noted that there has been a change in how assaults on staff are recorded, which may have contributed to the increase.

There was a record high of 57,968 self-harm incidents, up 24 per cent since the previous year, with the number of prisoners self-harming increasing by six per cent to 12,539.

In the year to June 2019, there were 309 deaths in prison – down slightly from 311 the previous year – including 86 which were believed to be self-inflicted, up from 81.

Assaults, including serious assaults, attacks on staff and self-harm incidents were all up on the previous quarter.

In April, then prisons minister Rory Stewart said he hoped he had turned the tide on violence behind bars after the three months to December 2018 showed a decrease in assaults, including those on staff – the first quarterly drop in two years.

He had promised to resign if the violence figures did not improve before he was promoted to International Development Secretary, a post he resigned from after Theresa May stepped down as prime minister on Wednesday.

The latest figures show there was an 18 per cent increase in assaults at youth institutions to 2,331 – a new record level – and a 47 per cent rise in serious assaults on staff, to 50 incidents, in the latest year.

The figures come after the Government stopped sending children to Feltham A young offender institution following an inspection which found an ‘extraordinary’ decline in safety levels.

A report outlined soaring levels of violence and self-harm, high use of staff force, poor care and long periods of lock-up in cells at the high-profile unit in west London, which holds youngsters aged between 15 and 18.

It was the first time the urgent notification process – requiring the Justice Secretary to publicly report on improvement measures within 28 days – had been used for a young offender institution.


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