Shropshire prison officer sacked over 'headlock' loses tribunal plea

A Shropshire prison officer sacked for putting an inmate in a headlock has lost an appeal against the decision which he claimed was influenced by a row over his work boots.

 Stoke Heath Prison
Stoke Heath Prison

Richard Harper was fired from Stoke Heath Prison, near Market Drayton, after allegedly holding a prisoner in a headlock.

Governor Huntington concluded Mr Harper had used “unreasonable force amounting to an assault.”

But Mr Harper denied he had done anything wrong and said he had only acted within regulations after the prisoner was verbally abusive and that he had feared the inmate would attack a female officer.

Mr Harper alleged the sacking decision had been influenced by alleged governors’ grudges against him over his disability claims resulting from a dispute over footwear for his work. The row had gone on for more than six months and had reached national level at one stage, Birmingham Employment Tribunal was told.

Mr Harper complained the uncomfortable boots caused, or exacerbated pains which caused him to have go on disability sick leave for months.

He received a financial settlement at one stage and the “inappropriate boots” issue sparked claims from other prison officers in other prisons.

The matter had to be handled nationally and the tribunal was told that Stoke Heath Deputy Governor Hudson finally resolved the matter with Mr Harper by issuing “appropriate footwear”.


Mr Harper had also made legal claims for wrongful and unfair dismissal and victimisation against the Secretary of State for Justice at the tribunal.

The tribunal was told Mr Harper became a prison officer at Stoke Heath from 2007 and had been involved in long spells of absence because of pain caused by “inappropriate” footwear for work.

Mr Harper was eventually pronounced fit to return to work but he became involved in a situation on the stairs of the prison with a prisoner.

Governor Huntingdon concluded Mr Harper had used unreasonable force amounting to an assault and that it had been serious enough to be classed as gross misconduct.

Following an unsuccessful appeal Mr Harper was sacked

The tribunal was satisfied that Deputy Governor Hudson had resolved the footwear issue and that no detriment was involved.

As a result the judge decided that Mr Harper had not been wrongfully or unfairly dismissed or victimised.

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