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Stressful Times: Marsh v Ministry of Justice [2017] EWHC 1040 (QB) - Andrew Roy & Vanessa Cashman, 12 King's Bench Walk

17/07/17. Following a 15 day trial before Thirlwall LJ (as she now is; she was promoted to the Court of Appeal during the course of the litigation) the Ministry of Justice was found liable for prolonging a disciplinary investigation and accompanying suspension against the Claimant prison officer.    These failings were found to have caused the premature termination of the Claimant’s career due to psychiatric injury.  He was awarded over £286,000. 

This was an unusual (and unusually hard fought) stress at work claim.  It gave rise to numerous salutary and interesting points, not least in relation to the application of the new discount rate.

Factual background

The Claimant was employed as a prison officer at HMP Downview, which housed only female inmates. Surrey Police began investigating the prison in 2009, under Operation Daimler, following revelations of endemic corruption and sexual misconduct within the prison. The Claimant was the subject of and implicated in various allegations of sexual misconduct made by a serving prisoner (Ms Garces Rosero).

One complaint, made in 2009, concerned an allegation that the Claimant had slapped Ms Garces Rosero’s buttocks (although an investigation into this by the Defendant in 2009 had found that there was no case to answer). Ms Garces Rosero later alleged that he drugged and raped her.  The Claimant’s case was that these allegations were malicious and categorically untrue.

As a result of these allegations, the police in February 2010 executed a search warrant at the Claimant’s home.  This was part of a number of arrests pursuant to a massive investigation into corruption at the prison, Operation Daimler.  The Defendant simultaneously suspended the Claimant from work. He suspended for 28 months until the Defendant had concluded its disciplinary hearing against him in June 2012. This was despite the fact that the Claimant was told in September 2010 that no criminal charges would be brought against him and further despite the fact that the Defendant had been told in May 2010 by the police that the case against the Claimant was weak. By the time disciplinary action concluded, with the single slapping allegiation against the Claimant being again dismissed, he was suffering from depression and was unfit to return to work. He was dismissed due to ill health at the end of May 2013...

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