G4S ordered to pay pounds 6,000 to ‘humiliated’ disabled man
A 79-year-old disabled former serviceman has been awarded pounds 6,000 damages after a judge ruled that he was humiliated by G4S prison officers who handcuffed him during a 14-day stay in hospital.
Peter McCormack was chained to a prison officer even when using the toilet and shower while he was in Royal Liverpool University hospital after a heart attack in March 2012. At the time he was on remand at the G4S-run Altcourse prison in Liverpool, awaiting sentence for offences relating to inspections of bouncy castles he carried out that did not comply with health and safety regulations.
Yesterday, Judge Graham Wood QC ruled that for eight days, during which McCormack was in his own room on a hospital ward with only one door, he was subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment prohibited under article 3 of the European convention on human rights.
“The presence of one officer at the door to prevent escape of a 77-year-old person with significant heart complaint, facing a modest criminal sentence at best for breach of a regulatory offence in relation to his business would have been, in my judgment, a reasonable and proportionate restraint,” said Wood in his written judgment, read out in the high court in Liverpool. “During this time he was humiliated and his dignity was affronted.”
McCormack, who has a disability as a result of being shot through the knee while serving with the Royal Engineers during the 1956 Suez crisis, was awarded pounds 6,000, plus costs.
The judgment is the latest in a series of controversies to hit the major government contractor G4S. Last year, a jury found that an Angolan man, Jimmy Mubenga, who died after being restrained by three G4S guards as he was being deported from Britain, was unlawfully killed. In March, the company agreed to repay pounds 109m plus VAT for overcharging the Ministry of Justice for the electronic tagging of offenders.
McCormack, who represented himself in court, spent 14 days attached by his wrist to a 2.5 metre closet chain, despite having been described as a model prisoner. It was removed only briefly for him to take off his upper clothing, and when he was under heavy sedation undergoing an angioplasty procedure.
Twice in reviews of McCormack’s risk assessment during his stay in hospital, the report author wrote in a box relating to recommended handcuffing arrangements: “uncuffed one officer present throughout”. The judge criticised the evidence of G4S’s head of security at the time, Yvonne Forth, who, explaining to the court why these arrangements were not implemented, suggested the form entries were “hypothetical”.
Wood said he found Forth’s evidence to be “less than impressive. It is a reasonable conclusion that she simply ignored a recommendation from a security manager.” He said she failed to find out why he was imprisoned and that the risk assessment was undertaken in a number of respects “without any separate consideration of the circumstances of this prisoner”.
Peter McCormack was kept handcuffed by G4S during a 14-day hospital stay and chained to a prison officer in the shower
Guardian Newspapers Limited