David Marshall and Amanda Hopkins successful in High Court stress at work case
I am just coming to the end of acting in a stress at work claim for a former Prison Officer who claimed damages for the psychiatric harm he suffered as a result of his employer’s treatment of him during a prolonged period of suspension. I assisted David Marshall in bringing the matter to a 15 day trial at the High Court before Mrs Justice Thirlwall (now Thirlwall LJ). Judgment was recently handed down and a copy of the full judgment of Marsh –v- Ministry of Justice  EWHC 1040 QB. I’m pleased to say that judgment was given for my client and he was awarded just over £286,000 in compensation, well over half of which relates to his lost future pension rights. The aim of this blog is just to give a flavour of the case and the ‘living hell’ my client Jim went through to achieve justice. David and I plan to write more substantively about the case in the near future and I will update this blog with relevant links.
It’s worth giving a bit of background information to my client’s suspension. Jim worked as a Prison Officer at HMP Downview. This prison has already been the subject of media interest when a governor, Russell Thorne, was found guilty of misconduct in public office following a lengthy police investigation called Operation Daimler. Mr Thorne had been conducting a sexual relationship with a prisoner (Liliana Garces-Rosero) and a number of other officers were implicated in similar behaviour with prisoners. In recent media coverage local to the prison the criminal proceedings are well remembered.
Jim had been a firm but fair prison officer with a clear career progression plan and an aim to make Governor grade. This came to an abrupt end when Jim became caught up in Operation Daimler as a result of Ms Garces-Rosero making false allegations against him. It appears Ms Garces-Rosero had become frustrated by her failure to manipulate Jim and she decided to exact her revenge by attempting (and ultimately succeeding) in ruining his career.
After being house searched, arrested, interviewed and investigated my client was never charged by the police. Jim had been suspended by the Prison Service on the same day his house was searched in February 2010. By September 2010 the police had concluded their investigation into Jim. However, my client remained on suspension until June 2012. He had been the subject of 2 internal investigations, both of which found that he had not been guilty of misconduct. After the conclusion of the second internal investigation Jim was invited back to work but by this time his mental health had suffered to such a degree that he was unfit for work. He eventually had his contract terminated on the grounds of ill health in May 2013.
Jim was referred to Anthony Gold by his union the Prison Officers Association seeking compensation for the psychiatric harm he had suffered. The central allegation of negligence was that he had remained on suspension for longer than necessary. If he had been allowed back to work after the police investigations had been concluded or failing this, when his return would not have interfered with any criminal proceedings, it was argued that he would not have suffered the breakdown that he did and he would have been able to continue with his much-loved career.
The Prison Service defended the claim by not only denying that the length of suspension was unreasonable, they also accused Jim of being guilty of the misconduct Ms Garces-Rosero had accused him of in the first place. This was despite the police bringing no charges against him and his being cleared by two internal investigations by the Defendant itself. This was crushing to Jim. He was faced with defending himself a fourth time.
For now, I will leave it to Nick Hilborne, solicitor and reporter for Legal Futures to comment on the Defendant’s conduct of litigation. But this overshadows what the case was really about. In David Marshall’s words
“I am delighted that Jim Marsh has been vindicated by this judgment. What this case was really about was the failure of his employer, the Prison Service, in breach of their duty of care, to look after the mental health of Prison Officers. Instead of that, Jim was left in limbo by them for more than two years, and long after all police investigations into him had been dropped. I hope that the Prison Service will review their health and safety policies and make sure they are properly implemented in future, so that Prison Officers, who already have an incredibly difficult and stressful job, are not let down like this again.”.
Jim is taking small steps to rebuild his life. He is surrounded by loving supportive family and friends and the future is a lot less bleak than it appeared.
* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*
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