High Court Orders End To Prison Strikes
The Law Of... campaigning for better working conditionsA High Court injunction has ordered Prison Officers to return to work after 10,000 members of the Prison Officers Association (POA) stopped working in protest over unsafe work conditions.
Responding to the High Court injunction, Anna Thompson – Associate Solicitor on Simpson Millar's Personal Injury team
– explains how current conditions in the prison system make officers susceptible to injuries at work.
MOJ Claim Industrial Action Is "Unlawful"
The POA have been in discussion with the Government to discuss a range of concerns currently facing Prison Officers across the country.
After a spate of high-profile assaults and attempts to abscond, which resulted in the murder of one prisoner
and the escape of two inmates
from Pentonville prison, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published a report highlighting that the number of assaults in prison were on the rise.
To try and tackle the growing issue of violence and drug abuse in the prison system, Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced that an additional 2,100 Prison Officers will be recruited across England and Wales
After this announcement was made, it was claimed that talks between the POA and the Government broke down, resulting in the leading union for prison staff telling members to stop working.
While not an instance of a formal strike, which are illegal amongst prison staff, the MoJ branded the industrial action by Prison Officers unlawful; passing this injunction, a High Court judge agreed and has ordered staff to return to work.
The POA have claimed that they consider the walk outs a success, as they have obtained a meeting with the Justice Secretary within 48 hours.
65 Assaults Every Day
The Prison Officer's industrial action comes after staff claimed their working conditions have deteriorated to unsafe levels, with a rise in prison violence against both Prison Officers and the other inmates.
Assaults on prison staff are at an all-time high, with 5,423 incidents taking place last year, a 40% rise on the previous period.
In total, including incidents involving attacks on other inmates and those on Prison Officers, it is predicted that there are 65 assaults in jails every day.
On average, almost 60 Prison Officers suffered a serious injury as a result of an attack by an inmate every month.
The POA claimed that these statistics underline the unsafe conditions for staff, with union leaders claiming that cuts to prison budgets have caused violent incidents to skyrocket.
Commenting on the High Court decision, Anna said:"Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Prison Officers are banned from holding a formal strike.""While this incident did not surmount to a formal strike it is clear why the High Court passed this injunction, however the industrial action has been described as a success by the POA, who have been able to arrange an immediate meeting with the Justice Secretary.""As for the wider concern of safety in prisons and tackling the rise of drug abuse and violence behind bars, one can only hope that the commitment to employ a further 2,100 Officers will be able to stop the rising trend.""It should be noted that the Government have a very poor track record of retaining prison officers currently and that even with the extra staff Prison Officers could be at risk of harm and serious injury if a wider scale reform is not implemented.""With our proud links to unions, we have helped many Prison Officers gain compensation for injuries sustained at work, especially where their working conditions caused the injury to occur."