A former prison officer has been awarded a six-figure sum in damages for stress he suffered after listening to sex offenders’ accounts of their crimes, his lawyer has said.
Steven Heaven, 44, claimed the harrowing “therapeutic community” sessions, in which sex offenders described their crimes in detailed and graphic terms, disturbed him so much that he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition often associated with soldiers returning from war.
His case was settled, for an undisclosed six-figure sum, following a three-year legal battle after the prison would not accept that his illness had been caused by his working conditions, said his solicitors Moore Blatch Resolve.
Mr Heaven, of Bridgwater, Somerset, said: “I knew it would be an extremely difficult case, but I decided I had to fight their decision and make a stand.
“It was awful having to hear the prisoners’ descriptions and I’ll never be able to forget what I heard.
“I feel like a real weight has been lifted from my shoulders, as I have been under a lot of pressure for so long.
“I’ll never be able to operate in such a high-pressure environment again, but I finally feel some closure and that I can now positively move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Mr Heaven’s problems started when he was required to take part in the therapeutic sessions with sex offenders at HMP Grendon, a category B therapeutic prison in Buckinghamshire, towards the end of his 15 years as a prison officer.
Despite having no experience as a clinician and no qualifications as a therapist, his job required him to listen to the prisoners’ descriptions of their crimes, which were often expressed “in detailed and graphic terms”.
His lawyer Ciaran McCabe said: “It was a complex claim and in winning this case I feel we have achieved a landmark settlement.”