Payout for 'horrors' of counselling worst sex offenders

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The Independent Online

Two experienced prison officers who suffered "psychological horrors" after counselling some of Britain's worst sex offenders won more than £100,000 damages from the Prison Service yesterday.

Geoffrey Mundell and Barry Bigby were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after they spent four years dealing with inmates at Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight. Two other officers are also claiming damages for their work with sex offenders at the same jail.

The Prison Service settled the case before a seven-day trial was due to begin at High Court in London yesterday. Mr Mundell was awarded an undisclosed six-figure sum and Mr Bigby is believed to have received tens of thousands of pounds.

Albany housed both the serial killer, Dennis Nilsen, and the notorious paedophile, Sidney Cooke, in the time that the two officers were employed.

Mr Mundell, 53, and Mr Bigby, 57, began working on the new Sex Offenders Treatment Programme (SOTP) at Albany in 1992. The men received just one week's training.

Mr Bigby developed a phobia of children brought on by even the sight or sound of them, documents in the case showed. Mr Mundell began to see himself as an abuser, doctors concluded, and had nightmares about abusing children.

The officers' solicitors argued that the Prison Service failed to act on warnings dating back to 1982 that anyone involved in the SOTP was at risk of mental problems.

The high level of damages is likely to reopen the debate about Britain's growing "compensation culture" because victims of child sex abuse can receive a maximum of £33,000 from public funds. Often the sum is £11,000.