Lorraine Barwell

Security firm Serco has been fined £2.25m for failing to protect a custody officer who died from being attacked by a prisoner in court.

In 2015, Lorraine Barwell was kicked in the body and head by a prisoner she was trying to restrain, at Blackfriars Crown Court. The custody officer later died from brain injuries caused by the attack.

The Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation which found that Serco at fault for a number of issues, including a failure to  assess risks of violence and aggression in prisoners and not communicating safety precautions to staff.

In a separate incident another member of staff was rammed against the wall by a prisoner and strangled in the Woolwich Court annex. Although the officer pressed an alarm button, there were no staff at the annex to respond.

At an Old Bailey hearing, Serco pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act, it was reported. The court fined the security firm £2.25m and ordered that it pay £433,596 in costs. The judge reduced the fine by 10% in recognition of the fact that the company pleaded guilty.

The judge decided not to place a remedial action on Serco, due to the company making improvements.

"Serco drastically failed in their duties to protect both Lorraine Barwell and other staff over a sustained period," said HSE inspector Helen Donnelly. 

"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."

Anthony Kirby, Serco Chief Executive UK & Europe said: “Everyone in Serco was deeply shocked and saddened when Lorraine was fatally assaulted by Humphrey Burke in 2015 and we continue to send our deepest condolences to her family and friends." 

"Lorraine was a brave and experienced Prisoner Custody Officer who was a popular and highly respected member of our team and had worked for Serco for over ten years," said Kirby. "She is still sorely missed by her colleagues and everyone across Serco. The safety and wellbeing of colleagues is our highest priority and, as recognised by the Court, we have improved our safety processes. We continuously strive to seek to ensure such an incident can never happen again."

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Anonymous 02 June 23 10:28

Having a 50kg 55 year old female

restraining a young adult heavy-set volatile male.  The system is broken. 

Anonymous 02 June 23 11:09

Awful. They should not be pairing criminals up against smaller security guards. 

Big lumps should be controlled by big lumps.

Anonymous 02 June 23 13:28

Yes, strong agree with the above.

This is a job that should be exclusively reserved for large heavily-tattooed chaps built like brick outhouses who would, were they not at that very moment being paid to manhandle a miscreant in a courtroom setting, be fighting similarly sized physical specimens in the carpark of their local flat-roofed hostelry.

Anonymous 02 June 23 15:34

@13:28 - you are being deliberately obtuse. The comment above was in relation to matching appropriately. There's clearly a role for smaller and female members of security for smaller and non-violent criminals. And not all big security guards are brutes or neanderthals. But so long as you feel satisfied about having a chippy comment published on ROF this comment won't matter.

Anonymous 02 June 23 18:05

"There's clearly a role for smaller and female members of security for smaller and non-violent criminals"

No. Total cobblers.

Gigantic security orcs for everyone. No exceptions.


No little ones. And if the big ones aren't brutes and/or neanderthals (preferably both) then they're in the wrong line of work and should do something more suitable to their temperament like playing professional rugby league.

Elephantinthewildhappyandfree 03 June 23 09:17

It would be very difficult in practice to make the call on whether a ‘Big Lump’ should be used in particular cases. Agree system is broken. 

Sir Woke XR Remainer FBPE MBE 03 June 23 13:23

That’s privatisation for you! Thank you Maggie T, yeah till thinkin’ of ya, the streets ain’t never gon’ forget.

Elephantinthewildhappyandfree 04 June 23 10:17

It’s not sexism. The women custody officers do a brilliant job but it would be up to them to answer questions on if they felt out of their depth or unsafe. I am just saying allocation of individual prisoners on the above basis ie violent is not very practical or realistic. 

Anonymous 05 June 23 09:44

"It would be very difficult in practice to make the call on whether a ‘Big Lump’ should be used in particular cases."

No. It's really easy.

You allocate precisely one gigantic megabastard for everyone.

If the prisoner is equal to or greater in size than the troll which they have been allocated, then you allocate three more to be on the safe side (and mark them as a strong prospect for retraining once their sentence is done).

Or, if budgetary constraints prohibit that greater allocation, bring back hanging. Which both cuts down on the quantity of resources needed and has the dual benefit of reassuring the public that the problem is being taken seriously and that something meaningful is being done about it.

Liberals and communists will hate it of course, but by that time you're brought back hanging so you've got options for that problem as well.

Anonymous89 05 June 23 15:10

Is it just me or should these fines that companies get goes to the vicinity family and not the central government pot

Anonymous 07 June 23 14:42

@Anonymous89 yes they should. Poor woman and her poor family. This is awful. 

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