Prison officers receive over €6m in compensation payments

Cash paid out to injured officers in the last three years, according to Minister for Justice

Of the 13 prison officers who retired due to injuries incurred while on duty, four had been based in Cork Prison, two in Portlaoise maximum-security Prison and two in Midlands Prison in Portlaoise. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Of the 13 prison officers who retired due to injuries incurred while on duty, four had been based in Cork Prison, two in Portlaoise maximum-security Prison and two in Midlands Prison in Portlaoise. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

More than €6 million has been paid out in compensation to prison officers in personal injury claims over the last three years, according to the Minister for Justice.

Charlie Flanagan also revealed that since 2006 in excess of 172 prison officers have retired on grounds of ill health, 13 of whom left directly as a result of injury while on duty.

Mr Flanagan said the criminal injuries compensation tribunal handles personal injury claims “for personal injuries criminally inflicted on prison officers” and is independent in its decision making.

He said that €1.945 million was paid in compensation in 2016. A slightly lower €1.883 million was awarded for injury claims in 2017 rising again to €2.172 million last year, a total of €6,002,185 over the three years.

Claims are also handled by the Chief State Solicitors Office when personal injury claims involve assaults between staff or concerning staff and prisoners and in certain employment law matters.

But the State Claims Agency manages most personal injury claims in five categories. These include behavioural hazards identified as “violence, bullying, harassment and aggression” as well as “slips, trips and fall”, exposure to chemical and biological hazards and prison vehicle collisions.

Mr Flanagan said the Irish Prison Service worked closely with the claims agency to identify and learn lessons from personal injury claims.

He told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy in replies to written parliamentary questions that the prison service “wants to achieve the highest health and safety standards” and has established an occupational health and safety management system based on the requirements of an internationally recognised safety management system.

Ms Murphy said the amount paid out in compensation was “an awful lot of money. But it is unsurprising give the nature of the job prison officers do, working in an unsafe environment.” She added that “it probably just shows in monetary terms the dangers of the job”.

Political reaction

Ms Murphy said the Public Accounts Committee had been looking at the work done by the State Claims Agency. “It’s inevitable that you will have compensation claims for injuries in a dangerous environment”, but the agency had put systems in place to reduce the risk of claims and had made improvements.

Of the 13 prison officers who retired as a result of injuries incurred while on duty, four had been based in Cork Prison, two worked in Portlaoise maximum-security Prison and two in the neighbouring medium-security Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.

One officer retired from Castlerea Prison, one from Limerick and one from Mountjoy Prison while two officers who worked in the Prison Service Escort Corps retired directly as a result of injuries received on duty.

The largest number of retirements was in 2016 when three officers left the service while there were none between 2010 and 2014.