Serco to be punished for security flaws that led to the death of the probation officer

A security contractor will later be punished for health and safety flaws that led to a mentally ill inmate kicking and killing a probation officer.

Humphrey Burke, now 29, attacked Lorraine Barwell, 54, who was trying to escort him from his cell at Blackfriars Crown Court in central London in June 2015.

Burke admitted to murder by reducing liability, and in January an indefinite hospital order was placed on the Old Bailey.

Barwell’s employer, Serco, contracted by the Department of Justice to provide security services in the courts, pleaded guilty once in April to failing to fulfill his general health, safety and welfare duty from January 2014 to March 2017.

The prosecution claimed that two attacks on probation officers during this time – Ms. Barwell and Bernadette Cawley – showed what can happen if the right health and safety precautions are not taken.

Ms Cawley, who survived the attack, was strangled to death in an annex court at Woolwich Crown Court in June 2016 and hit a wall on the quayside, but when she sounded the alarm, there were no other detention personnel nearby to assist.

Serco will be sentenced at the Old Bailey by Mr. Judge Jeremy Baker on Wednesday.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Gordon Menzies said Serco was put at risk due to issues with court and escort staff staffing levels, information, information management, training, administration and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Ms. Barwell was a member of the van crew, but was enlisted to help move Burke from her cell to the van due to staff shortages at the court.

Although Serco had access to this information, he was unaware of Burke’s previous violent outbursts.

Mr Menzies said: “No one told him or gave him any indication that he was a man who could attack for any reason and that you couldn’t read him or know how to react, and that’s exactly what happened here.

“Without warning, Lorraine attacked Barwell. She kicked him once, fell to the ground, and was kicked in the head again, mortally wounded.

“He went blind.”

The court heard that he had not been given adequate “control and restraint” training and that he had not been given a PPE helmet.

On the day Mrs Cawley was attacked by a prisoner, the Old Bailey was told there should have been 32, but there were only 22 staff members in the court.

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