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Prison officer injured during training has damages rejected

Posted in: Workplace Injuries 

A prison officer has had her action for damages refused after suffering a serious injury during a riot training exercise. Bernadette Smith was a prison officer at Addiewell Prison, employed by Kalyx Ltd, when the accident happened. She had been taking part in a one-day “control and restraint” training course in September 2010, which involved a “simulated prison riot”. The training exercise, run by the Scottish Prison Service at its Fauldhouse training facility in Bathgate, West Lothian, involved the attempted control of a mock riot. Where the pursuer had been wearing full riot gear at the time of the incident, she still suffered a severe injury when another prison officer threw a large block of wood in her direction.

PC Smith had been a “shield holder” in the training exercise. This meant she was positioned in the front group that had to access the mock prison wing by getting through a set of metal gates that were barricaded by the rioters. Her position followed closely behind the team of “workers” who were meant to clear debris out of the way which had been piled up by the rioters. When one ‘worker’ threw a piece of wood back, it accidentally hit PC Smith, causing serious workplace injury.

“failed to establish a breach of […] regulations”

The pursuer claimed damages of £6,460 against the Scottish Ministers, claiming that the injury had been a result of the poorly managed training operation. The sheriff rejected her claim at Livingston Sherriff Court, however, because the pursuer “failed to establish a breach of any of the various regulations founded upon.” Sherriff Douglas Kinloch stated:

“While the accident seems to have affected her quite badly, and it is impossible not to feel sympathetic towards her for that, it is not in my view an accident which sounds in law in damages.”

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