More than £50,000 awarded after violent attack at Wetherby Young Offender Institution

Wetherby Young Offenders Institution. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Wetherby Young Offenders Institution. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

A prison officer who was violently attacked at Wetherby Young Offender Institution (YOI) has been awarded £56,500 in compensation.

Keith Nyberg, 54, was routinely checking an inmate’s cell when the prisoner became aggressive and threatening.

He attempted to restrain the prisoner but was bitten on the chest, punched in the face, kicked, and suffered attempts to gouge out his eyes.

Mr Nyberg was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and he found working in the prison service traumatic.

After more than 24 years in the prison service, he said he felt forced to retire and he investigated a compensation claim with the Prison Officers’ Association and Thompsons’ Solicitors, eventually winning £50,000 net plus repayment of benefits coming to £6,500 almost four years after the attack in August 2010.

Mr Nyberg said: “The prison service should have done a lot more to make sure I was protected. This prisoner was known to be very violent and his location in the establishment while being in a volatile state meant that he posed a significant risk to staff.

“Although he was known to managers at Wetherby to be unpredictable with a history of violence towards staff, no protocol was in place for his management.

“I was not warned about the prisoner’s violent history and wasn’t aware of the high level of risk to me and other officers. That failure meant a high degree of personal anxiety and suffering, and ultimately led to me leaving a profession that I had worked in for over 24 years. I am now unable to take up similar employment or indeed any employment likely to expose me to confrontation of any kind.

“Thankfully, the compensation has given me a degree of financial stability after such a traumatic experience.”

The attack comes at a time when violence in prisons is on the rise. According to the POA, in the last 12 months there has been a 37 per cent increase in the number of prison officers subject to serious assaults.

Glyn Travis from the POA said: “In the worst cases, as with Keith, people are forced to give up their jobs as a result of the long-term consequences of a vicious assault. This government is only making matters worse by cutting funding for the prison service.”

Trevor Hall from Thompsons Solicitors added: “This incident shows a failure to ensure basic workplace safety standards, which seems incomprehensible given the nature of the work.”

Mr Nyberg has been working as a driver since April 2014.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “All prison staff do an excellent job and their safety and security is of paramount importance.

“We do not tolerate violence of any kind in prison and all assaults, especially those on our staff, are treated extremely seriously and we will always press for the most serious charges to be laid.

“We are comprehensively reviewing how we manage violence in prisons and proactively working with the police and CPS to introduce a new approach to the investigation of crime.”