Kyle Major: PO Criticizes Female Prison Officer and Prison Officers Association (POA)

Case Number: 66996/2015 Kyle W Ma:jor A8397 AJ HMP Woodhill

 A report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen CBE

1. Mr Major has complained about the behaviour of an officer at HMP Woodhill.

2. Mr Major submitted three (undated) confidential access forms. Unfortunately, he only sent us one side and the prison does not keep copies of confidential access complaints.

3. In the first, Mr Major complained that he was being targeted by staff. He said this was after an officer [Officer A] had made sexual advances towards him and he had turned her down. He said she had also gone to his cell while the landing was in patrol state and informed him that he was about to get searched. He said it had happened on the day of the lock-down when scissors had gone missing from Education. CCTV would confirm this. Mr Major said he had told the officer that he had nothing to hide. He subsequently told her he was not interested and to leave him alone. Mr Major said the officer had done nothing but constantly try to engage him. He did not even look at her and she was 'on his case'. He said he believed that she was controlling other prisoners

4. The Head of Security replied on 12 March 2015. She said she had asked a member of her staff to meet Mr Major to discuss his complaint with him.

5. In the second complaint, Mr Major complained that staff on 1 B were behaving corruptly. He said it stemmed from him exposing Officer A as a corrupt officer. He said she was working with criminals and breaching the security of a High Security establishment He repeated what he had said about her warning him about an impending search. Mr Major said he believed the officer had 'put a hit' on him because people kept threatening him. The cleaners who he had mentioned in his previous complaint were encouraging others to assault him. He said he was having to behave a certain way to protect himself.

6. In the third complaint, Mr Major complained that he was being 'bullied, harassed and targeted' by staff.

7. The Head of Security sent identical responses to the second and third complaints. She said again that she would make arrangements for either her or a member of her staff to talk to Mr Major. She asked him to bring with him any information he considered relevant. She said staff would continue to support him, but encouraged him to 're-visit' his decision not to accept a transfer elsewhere. She promised a full response once the meeting had taken place.

8. Mr Major wrote to the Ombudsman on 4 May. He asked us to chase up responses to his complaints.

9. He wrote again in July. He complained that, after he had rejected Officer A's sexual advances towards him, she had gone on a 'campaign of hate' against him. He said he had still not had a substantive reply to his complaints.

10. ln a further letter sent in August, Mr Major speculated that officercer A nao warneo him about the search in order to build trust for either 'sexual or criminal intent' or to emotionally harm him. He said that, on another occasion, she had made deliberate contact with his hand. He said that, as a result of his complaints, the officer had made personal and derogatory remarks about him in his records.

11. Mr Major wrote again in December, providing more details of Officer A's behaviour towards him. He said that, when she had warned him about the search, she had gone to his cell of her own accord and whispered through the crack at him.

He also said he had been placed on a hygiene course. He said he 'knew' the officer had done this. He thought that it was in order to give him a wing job to be close to him.

12. Mr Major said Officer A had asked him in front of another officer how he would rate her out of ten. On another occasion, she had returned a lighter to him. The way she had placed it in his hand was 'inappropriate'. She had deliberately touched his hand 'in a certain way' and it had felt wrong. Another time, Officer A had called him over for an address because he was sending some perfume out. He had given her the address, but she had then asked him what the perfume was. When he told her, she said that was her favourite. When he told her what his favourite was, she had said that that was her favourite too. Mr Major said this was a 'clear attempt' to get close to him.

13. Mr Major said Officer A stared at him all the time on the wing and that this would be seen on CCTV. The officer had told him that she had a psychology degree and was on Facebook. She had also told him that 'she was from Leamington Spa or Leighton Buzzard'. Finally, Mr Major said Officer A had gone to his cell crying with a Senior Officer because he was not talking to her and had told her to leave him alone. He said he apologised if he had offended her somehow. Mr Major complained that Officer A had been trying to harm him and, because he had made a complaint in the proper way, it had backfired. He said he was getting targeted severely by staff and that the level of abuse he was getting was disgraceful.

14. To investigate Mr Major's complaint we looked at Prison Service policy on complaints about staff. We also asked Woodhill for paperwork relating to the investication that was carried out and a copy of the final replies sent to Mr Major.
Consideration - 29. Mr Major has complained about the behaviour of Officer A. He has also suggested that, because he complained about her, he was bullied and harassed by her colleagues.

Officer A's Behaviour

- 30. I have noted the evidence that suggests that it was Mr Major who had the problem with Officer A. It is possible that his complaint to us is simply a further manifestation of that fixation. Certainly, he has written to us a lot about her, even though he has long since been transferred to Swaleside. It is possible that his 'fixation' was the result of his concerns about her behaviour. However, it is also possible that he was trying to intimidate or control her. I have noted in this respect that, although Mr Major said Officer A had placed him on a hygiene course so that he could work close to her, it was he who said he would like to work in BlcS and cleaning.

31. Having said that, the allegations Mr Major has made about Officer A are fairly detailed - and therefore quite compelling. Most of the incidents Mr Major describes are open to benign interpretation and it might be inferred that Mr Major had made a lot out of not very much. However, I note that that he appears to know some personal information about Officer A. If she divulged this information herself, it was at best unwise. It is also possible that she overstepped the line between simply engaging with a prisoner and becoming too friendly. Even if this was the case, however, I cannot say what her motivation might have been. It may simply have been a misjudgement on her part.

32. However, the allegation that Officer A warned Mr Major about an impending search is more worrying. If it was true, she went well beyond simply trying to be friendly. Such behaviour would have been unprofessional and could have compromised safety on the wing. I am very disappointed that Officer A declined to give us her account of what happened. It leaves a very serious question unanswered - and I have to wonder why an officer would choose not to give their own account in response to an allegation of this kind.

33. Officer A's refusal is also contrary to PSI 58/2010 (which requires prison staff to co-operate with this office's investigations) and is, therefore, a potential disciplinary offence. I have, therefore, considered whether we should conduct a formal interview with her. I have decided against doing so, however, since, by choosing not to give her own account, Officer A has disadvantaged herself rather than Mr Major.

34. I can see that Mr Major was thought to 'have it in for' Officer A. But in the absence of any kind of explanation from Officer A, it seems a curious episode for him to have simply made up.

35.ln summary, I consider it likely that the officer acted at least unwisely in some respects. Further than that, I simply cannot say.

Bullying by Staff

- 36.I have gone on to consider Mr Maior's complaint that he was bullied and harassed by staff as a result of his complaints about Officer A. First, I have found no entries on his NOMIS account by Officer A herself. Second, I can find no evidence from NOMIS of other officers giving Mr Major unwarranted warnings or otherwise treating him badly. Each of the negative entries on NOMIS appears to have been prompted by something Mr Major did. I cannot fault staff for reporting these incidents.

 

The Handling of Mr Major's Complaint

- 37. I turn finally to the handling of Mr Major's complaint. He submitted three
confidential access complaints, but did not receive a substantive response to any of them. It was this that prompted him to come to this office.

38. PSO 1300 says that the Governor has a statutory duty to investigate allegations about prison staff. I am satisfied that a 'simple investigation' was an appropriate first response in this case.

39.I can understand that the Head of Security might have concluded that there was nowhere to go with an investigation when Mr Major was apparently unable to give details that could be checked out. However, Mr Major had made a specific and serious allegation that Officer A warned him about an impending search. I have seen no evidence of the head of security ever spoke to officer A, about  this allegation. This was poor practice.

40.I also consider that a written record should have been made of what evidence was considered as part of the simple investigation, who was spoken to and what they said, and why any conclusions were reached. In addition, even if the Head of Security could not substantiate Mr Major's complaint, he should have been provided with a formal response explaining why that was.

 

Comments on the Draft Report 

- 41. We shared a draft of this report with the Prison Service and Mr Major.

42. There were no comments from Woodhill.

43.The Governor of Bullingdon said he had had a meeting met with Officer A. She had told him that she did not engage
with this office on the advice of her union representative. The reasons for this were twofold:

• She was worried about what would be disclosed to Mr Major. It was evident that he unnerved her and she did not want him having any more information than was necessary revealed to him.

• Given that any information given to the PPO could have been disclosed to a Prison Service investigation, the officer did not want to answer questions without the full protection of a POA representative accompanying her. The POA also advised her that they felt it was for the prison to respond to the investigation, not the individual.

44. lt is for the PPO to decide what evidence we need when conducting investigations. In this case specific complaints had been made against Officer A. We, therefore, considered that we should give Officer A the opportunity to respond directly, in addition to the evidence we obtained from the prison. She did not give us any explanation for refusing to co-operate with our investigation and she, therefore, put herself in breach of PSI 58/2010.

45. As far as the explanations Officer A has now given are concerned, neither is an adequate reason for refusing to co-operate with a PPO investigation. If Officer A had told us that she was concerned about what would be disclosed to Mr Major, we would have been happy to discuss this further with Officer A and senior prison managers to ensure that Officer A was not put at any additional risk. If she had told us she wanted to answer our questions at a formal interview with a POA representative to accompany her, we would have been happy to arrange this. There was, therefore, a solution to any concerns she might have had.

46. Moreover, these concerns do not explain why she did not immediately refute at least some of the allegations. For example, she could easily have refuted Mr Major's allegation that she shared personal information with him by informing us that she does not in fact have a psychology degree or come from Leamington Spa or Leighton Buzzard and could not, therefore, have told Mr Major that she  did.

47. lt remains the case, therefore, that Officer A was given the opportunity to tell us her side of the story and chose not to do so. We have, therefore, drawn our conclusions without the benefit of her input. I consider that she was very badly advised by her POA representative.

48. It is also a great pity that Woodhill did not conduct a robust internal investigation into Mr Major's complaints themselves and did not put his allegations to Officer A at the time.

49. Mr Major was very dissatisfied with the investigation, which he did not think had been nearly robust enough. He thought we should have interviewed staff witnesses and reviewed ccTV footage. He said he had not had a fixation with Officer A and that he had suffered systematic abuse. It was far from the truth to suggest that he had made a lot out of little. He said the three Cornp 2s he submitted in March 2015 showed that the abuse was targeted. He said we should 'independently review' NOMIS entries and security information. He denied that he had asked to do any courses and repeated that Officer A had put him down for them so that he would work near to her. He said that she should be disciplined for the incident relating to the scissors alone. Mr Major said that notes had been taken when he was interviewed and should have been retained. He said the NOMIS entries about him were by way of retaliation and a means of discrediting him. He asked why the officer had not been removed from the wing after he complained about her.

50. We did review the NOMIS entries and security information and our conclusions are set out in this report.

51.I agree that it would have been useful to have reviewed ccTV footage of the incidents Mr Major refers to. Wood hill told us that no ccTV had been retained. accept that this is the case and there is, therefore, nothing we can do about it. However, it is very disappointing. Any relevant ccTV should have been retained and reviewed as part of a robust internal investigation when Mr Major made his complaints.

52.1 also agree that notes should have been retained of the prison's interview with Mr Major and Officer A - and we have said so in the report.

 

Conclusion and Recommendations  -

 53 .I uphold Mr Major's complaint in part. I cannot say that the officer was 'corrupt', but I consider it likely that she over-stepped the mark of what was properly professional. I also uphold Mr Major's complaint as it relates to the handling of his complaint.

54.I recommend that, within four weeks of the issue of this report, the Governor of HMP Bullingdon discusses its contents with her and reminds her that PSI 58/2010 requires staff to co-operate with the PPO's investigations.

55. I also recommend that, within two months ot the Issue or thiS report, the Governor of Woodhill reviews the arrangements for investigating complaints against staff and reminds staff that written responses must be provided to all formal complaints, regardless of whether a prisoner has been spoken to.

(6 April 2016 Elizabeth Moody Deputy Ombudsman)