Clerk ordered to lift stationery boxes awarded pounds 400,000

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The Independent Online
A CLERICAL worker at a London police station was awarded pounds 400,000 compensation yesterday for injuries suffered while lifting boxes of stationery at work.

Fiona Clark, from Milton Keynes, won her case despite the Metropolitan Police's efforts to defend the action by hiring private detectives to follow her to assess the validity of her claim. Milton Keynes county court was told that Mrs Clark injured her back while carrying heavy boxes of stationery up several flights of stairs. The court also heard that uniformed officers at the station were not prepared to help her with the boxes.

As a result of her injuries she is now unable to work and has had to give up swimming, badminton, keep-fit and aerobics. Her husband told the court that it now fell to him to do most of the household chores such as vacuum cleaning and washing. But the police, who had denied liability, claimed Mrs Clark was exaggerating her symptoms and said that she was responsible for her injuries.

The court heard that the police employed the services of two private inquiry agents to keep surveillance on Mrs Clark on three occasions during March and April last year.

Three secret videos, revealing her walking her two dogs on a local common, moving about inside her home and shopping, were shown to the judge.

One of the private detectives told the court he was a former member of the SAS and said that as well as following her had kept her house under observation. Mrs Clark told the hearing she now suffered from substantial lower back pain and sciatica, and that she experienced difficulty in bending, kneeling and squatting.

Judge Daniel Serota found in favour of Mrs Clark, who is pregnant, saying that because of her injuries she was likely to find "the pleasure of motherhood somewhat lessened and the burden somewhat increased by her disabilities".

Mrs Clark injured her back nearly five years ago before she was married and while working at Notting Hill police station, west London.

During the case, Judge Serota was told that Mrs Clark's line manager at the station, Christine Bird, was responsible for health and safety but she had received no training other than to watch a video on the topic, which involved the actor John Cleese. Mrs Clark and her staff took on the new lifting duties in March 1994 after a storeman left his job at the station.

The jobs assigned to her included regularly lifting boxes of stationery from an outside yard to the storeroom on the third floor or to a basement archive room. The station had no elevator, the court heard.