Prison governor wins payout for sex discrimination

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The first female governor to sue the Prison Service was awarded £6,000 compensation yesterday after an industrial tribunal in Manchester was told she was called "the bag lady" by her male colleagues.

Katie Dawson, 56, a former governor of Risley Women's Prison in Cheshire - which has since closed - had complained that she was victimised by prison chiefs because she campaigned for improved jail conditions for women prisoners. She said she was told that all senior staff who "attract bad publicity" were moved on.

After yesterday's ruling, she said: "I am relieved it is over. It was done because I have always felt very concerned about the way the Prison Service manages an increasing number of women prisoners. Women go into prisons with extra burdens and that is not reflected by the Prison Service or the criminal justice system."

Ms Dawson, who has also attracted attention for writing a series of racy novels about life inside prison, believes she was overlooked for promotion in favour of male managers.

She told the tribunal that she became the only governor at Risley to be designated no role and was even denied an office. She becoming jokingly known among junior staff as "the bag lady of Risley", a reference to sleeping rough.

Ms Dawson, said she was given the task of organising contingency plans in the event of an emergency incident, a "well-known device" used to fill time for officers who had no role.

"I was known as the surplus governor," she said. "There are more male staff than female and to challenge procedures results in the situation I find myself in.

"I was a senior manager at a women's prison which was isolated, marginalised and ... deprived of resources. Because I challenged this I, too, became isolated."

Ms Dawson, who accused the Prison Service of victimisation and sex discrimination, also believes jail bosses took a dim view of her writing career.

Her first publication, written under the pseudonym of Maggie Marshall, depicts a female governor who falls in love with a priest and then gets taken hostage by a body-building lesbian inmate who develops a crush on her.

Ms Dawson was an English teacher before she began a 27-year career in the Prison Service in 1973. She worked in Strangeways and Styal prisons before becoming the head of the women's wings at Risley.

She is now head of prison programmes at the remaining men's prison at Risley.

The chairman of the tribunal, Michael Coles, said: "This has been a case where the applicant is still employed by the respondent. We hope this matter can now be put in the past by everyone and that she is able to continue to provide the diligent service she has done in the past."

The Prison Service refusedto comment.