‘Targeted’ guards demand answers after wrongful dismissal
AN INDEPENDENT inquiry must be launched into the dismissal of two now-vindicated guards who restrained a notorious criminal with a slipper, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said yesterday.
Staff at Ashworth secure psychiatric hospital in Merseyside, which counts Moors murderer Ian Brady among its patients, went on strike over the incident in November 2015.
The restrained inmate Andrew Farndon was imprisoned for a hammer rampage in 2007 which left a man fighting for his life. In hospital five years later, he escaped after an accomplice threatened guards with a replica gun.
He was recaptured after attempting to hijack two police cars and later transferred to Ashworth, where he was restrained after head-butting a staff member.
Mr Farndon, who has hepatitis C, then spat in the face of nurse Peter Hilton.
According to the POA, Mr Hilton then used the patient’s slipper “as a barrier to stop further spitting until the patient was restrained using approved techniques.”
Mr Farndon was charged and convicted for the assaults, and made a counter-complaint against his restrainers over which police took no action.
But Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ashworth, immediately suspended Mr Hilton and another nurse Kevin Gregson.
The pair say they were targeted because they challenged bully managers. They were dismissed and lost appeals, but were vindicated by an employment tribunal in March this year.
The nurses were each awarded pay-outs of over £40,000, and cleared of wrongdoing by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
The POA’s annual conference unanimously endorsed a motion calling for an inquiry. The union estimated the trust had spent £250,000 of public money pursuing the case.
The employment tribunal also awarded POA Ashworth branch officer Gary Lyon £6,000 in compensation for anti-union discrimination as a result of taking up the nurses’ case.
Mr Lyon told the conference: “We need to have answers. I’ve spent two years under the spotlight. I honestly believed [my career] was over.
“My branch passed two motions and that was it, they wanted a vote of no confidence in management, and to ballot for industrial action. And all of a sudden I was a target.”
A Mersey Care spokesman said: “The Trust remains disappointed with the judgements of recent employment tribunals relating to the [POA].
“Mersey Care does not believe it would have been in the best interests of our service users, patients and staff or a good use of public funds to further contest these issues.”