Today, Oct 18th 2017

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Serco custody officer compensated after suicidal offender lashes out

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A custody officer, and TWU member, who was injured by a suicidal prisoner has settled her workers compensation claim against Serco.

62 year old, Ruth James was working at the Joondalup Magistrates Court when an aggrieved offender, who had been remanded in custody, lashed out at her and three other officers as they tried to stop him taking his own life.

As he attempted to tie his t-shirt around his neck as a makeshift noose, there was a struggle and Ruth was pushed against a bar then slammed against the containment cell wall.

She injured her ankle and leg, and was also diagnosed with piriformis syndrome – an acute tenderness in the buttock and sciatica-like pain down the leg and foot. She was also diagnosed with stress and anxiety – a secondary psychiatric condition.

Her lawyer, Alex Illich from Slater and Gordon said this full diagnosis of her physical and psychological injuries was only gained after she was assessed by an independent specialist arranged by the law firm.

“Doctors were unsure about Ruth’s symptoms, diagnosis and treatment until we stepped in and arranged an independent health assessment,” Alex said.

“Ruth was seeking payment of her future medical expenses and surgery as well as compensation for the time she would be required to have off work while she undergoes treatment.

“Serco initially accepted liability for her claim, but then decided to stop her weekly compensation payments and declined to provide financial support for her treatment.

“We strongly opposed Serco’s decision and were able to negotiate a successful outcome for Ruth’s treatment and recovery.”

Ruth said thanks to her lawyers, she now had the financial means for the treatment she needed.

“This incident has left me in pain and unable to move around and live my life like I used to,” she said.

“The difficulties of dealing with the workers’ compensation insurer left me feeling anxious and contributed to my psychological condition.

“During the workers’ compensation process I felt like a broken person until Slater and Gordon helped me resolve the dispute and move on.

Now that I have received compensation I can move on and look forward to the future.”