Kent prison officer left temporarily blinded after assault

A Kent prisoner officer who suffered burns and psychological trauma after a prisoner threw boiling sugar water at his face has secured £7,000 compensation, with help from POA and Thompsons Solicitors.

James Grant was injured as he sought to remove wet toilet paper that a disruptive prisoner at HMP Cookham Wood in Borstal had used to plug his cell door window. As he began to remove the paper to see inside and check the man was safe, the prisoner threw the sugar water at him, causing serious burns to his face, neck and eye.

The mixture of boiling water and sugar, often referred to by prisoners as ‘napalm’, sticks to the skin and intensifies the burn.

“The pain was like nothing I’ve ever felt,” said James. “Colleagues rushed me to the orderly’s office and paramedics were treating me soon after. By this point, the vision in my left eye had completely clouded over – I was blind.”

He was taken to hospital and referred to a burns clinic the following day, where he received specialist treatment for his injuries. An eye hospital diagnosed his vision loss had been caused by swelling around the eye and his sight should return.

It took six weeks for James to see again out of his left eye and while his burns have largely healed, scarring remains. James referred himself for counselling after the assault and took three months to recover. A year after the incident happened he relapsed and needed a further three months off work as a result of the psychological trauma.

He turned to his union, the POA, for support and contacted Thompsons Solicitors to make a compensation claim.

“The incident affected me mentally and physically, and it left me worried about my safety going back to work,” he said. “My union made sure I wasn’t alone as I tried to cope with everything and helped me get in touch with Thompsons to make a claim. Together, their support was invaluable and helped me as I tried to rebuild my confidence.”

POA national vice chair Dave Todd said: “Through James’ union membership we were able to ensure he received a full compensation package, with no financial deductions, as well as vital support as he came to terms with what had happened to him.”

Rachel Lowe, of Thompsons Solicitors, added: “Prison officers simply carrying out their job should not have to face violence. I have seen first-hand how painful this ordeal has been for James and his family, and how long it has taken for him to recover.

“Health and safety must be a priority for all employers and hard-working people such as James should not be left significantly injured and out of work due to his employers failing to provide proper systems to avoid dangerous situations such as this. I’m glad we were able to support him and ensure he didn’t feel alone as he navigated the claim and his return to work.”

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