Security contractor SERCO has been fined £2.25 million due to its health and safety failures, resulting in the tragic death of a prison custody officer.
During the court proceedings at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker imposed the fine on Serco and ordered them to pay £433,596 in costs to the Health and Safety Executive. Justice Baker said that Lorraine Barwell’s death could have been avoided if Serco had fulfilled its duty of care towards its employees.
Lorraine Barwell, aged 54, was fatally attacked in the summer of 2015 by Humphrey Burke, a prisoner she was escorting, at Blackfriars Crown Court in London. Ms Barwell was kicked once in the body and once in the head. The incident was responded to by the emergency services including the London Air Ambulance which flown her to a London hospital in a critical condition.
Saved five lives with organ donations after tragic death
Ms Barwell died from brain injuries caused by the second blow to the head was an organ donor and saved five lives with her organ donations.
Following the incident, an investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The investigation concluded that “Serco Limited had failed to properly analyse risk intelligence on prisoners and communicate risks and safety precautions to staff. There was also a failure to have sufficient procedures in place and follow them, to provide readily accessible protective equipment and to ensure further training was provided where identified as required.”
Inspector Helen Donnelly from the HSE said: “Serco drastically failed in their duties to protect both Lorraine Barwell and other staff over a sustained period. It is not common to have a case covering such an extended period, but it appeared that Serco Limited were not learning from their mistakes.
“Lorraine Barwell and her colleagues were just doing their job and should have been protected from harm. Had Serco carried out their legal duties, these incidents could have been prevented.
“While this investigation has been long and complex, we hope Lorraine’s friends and family will find some comfort in today’s sentence and see that justice has now been served.
“No matter what work environment you are in, health and safety regulation is designed to protect people at work. We will not hesitate to act against those who fail to protect their workers.”
Burke, now 28, was scheduled to be sentenced for arson and attempted robbery at Blackfriars Crown Court on the day of the assault. He was later given an indefinite hospital order for manslaughter by diminished responsibility in January.
Serco, contracted by the Ministry of Justice for security services in courts, had pleaded guilty in April to failing in their general health, safety, and welfare obligations from January 2014 to March 2017. Following the sentencing, Anthony Kirby from Serco expressed their commitment to preventing similar incidents in the future.