Serco fined more than £2m for failures that led to custody officer death
Security contractor Serco has been fined more than £2 million for health and safety failings that led to a mentally-ill prisoner kicking a custody officer to death.
Humphrey Burke, 29, attacked 54-year-old Lorraine Barwell as she tried to escort him from his cell in Blackfriars Crown Court in central London in June 2015.
Burke admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility and was handed an indefinite hospital order at the Old Bailey in January last year.
Ms Barwell’s employer, Serco – which is contracted by the Ministry of Justice to provide security services in courts, pleaded guilty last April to failure to discharge general health, safety and welfare duty from January 2014 to March 2017.
The prosecution claimed that two attacks on custody officers – Ms Barwell and Bernadette Cawley – within that period demonstrated what can happen if the right health and safety steps are not taken.
Ms Cawley, who survived the attack, was strangled and rammed up against a wall in the dock in an annex court at Woolwich Crown Court in June 2016, but no other custody staff were nearby to help when she pressed the alarm.
However, Serco had admitted two limited breaches in relation to the two incidents at Blackfriars and Woolwich, but denied they were “causative” of the harm to the women.
But the prosecution had alleged there were wider failings, with areas including risk assessment, staffing levels, training and monitoring.
On Friday, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker fined Serco £2,250,000 and ordered the firm to pay the Health and Safety Executive costs of £433,596.
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox