pounds 250,000 for hostage jail officer

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The Independent Online
A prison officer yesterday accepted nearly pounds 250,000 in damages against the Home Office after he was taken hostage by dangerous inmates. Sidney Birchall, 47, who was awarded the record payout, claims the ordeal has left him fearing for his life.

Mr Birchall, who agreed the settlement before a hearing at York County Court, said that he and two other officers had been instructed to take two prisoners from jails in Yorkshire to Durham Prison. But when they went to collect one of the men in Leeds they discovered that not only was he a category A armed robber but also classified as a high-risk E (for escape) inmate.

Mr Birchall, a prison officer for three years, said outside the court: "We were only in a civilian minibus. We were inadequately staffed and refused to carry out the Leeds transfer." They carried out the orders after being told the prisoner had been downgraded, but were attacked on the journey. He was told he would die if he did not hand over his keys. The prisoners escaped.