Injury Experts Call For Reassurances Over Safety
LAWYERS acting for a female Detainee Custody Officer who faced an agonising six-month wait for doctors to give her the all clear after being bitten on her face by a HIV positive detainee at a centre for asylum seekers have demanded reassurances that safety measures in place to protect staff have improved.
Barbara-Ann Ennis, 40, was left traumatised and needing three surgical procedures to attempt to repair the wound after the attack. The incident took place at Gatwick Airport after leaving the Yarlswood Detention Centre in Bedford. Barbara-Ann was also forced to endure treatment for HIV while she waited for doctors to confirm she hadn’t caught the virus from her female attacker.
Now serious injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are calling on her former employer, G4S Ltd, to provide reassurances that lessons have been learnt and that safety is a ‘top priority’ after it emerged that the same detainee had bitten another officer just days before. Barbara-Ann attended several Health & Safety meetings within weeks of the attack to ensure that this and other events were not silenced.
Barbara-Ann, who has not been able to return to gainful employment since the attack in which she was permanently scarred, continues to receive treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident almost five years ago.
She has received a six-figure sum out of court settlement which her lawyers say will provide some financial security as she continues to rebuild her life, and is supporting calls for G4S, formerly Securicor Justice Services, to ensure the same thing cannot happen again after learning that the firm had failed to correctly record the earlier attack.
Barbara-Ann, an Army veteran decorated for service in Bosnia and Iraq, was attacked in August 2006 when the woman who was awaiting deportation sank her teeth into the side of the officer’s face in an unprovoked attack.
Sylvia Fileingoshisho, who was later sentenced to three years in prison for biting Barbara-Ann, and then deported, had previously proved to be difficult while being transported but an error by G4S Ltd meant her previous biting attack was not mentioned on the report.
The shocked officer, a member of the Territorial Army, was treated at the local hospital and then transferred to the Queen Victoria, East Grinstead, for surgery a few hours later.
Prior to her surgery she received the devastating news that her attacker was HIV positive and that she must begin a six-month course of precautionary treatment for HIV until she was finally given the all-clear by doctors. She underwent surgery three times within five years to repair the wound to her face but has been left with a permanent scar.
The company’s medical team advised that Barbara-Ann was unable to return to her previous operational role. Despite numerous attempts to return to work, Barbara-Ann found that her employer could not accommodate her as she began the painful road to recovery, and dealing with her psychiatric injuries, forcing her to leave the job she loved. Her employment was terminated on 31 December 2007.
Now five years on, Barbara-Ann continues to suffer as a result of the injuries she sustained - she is no longer able to actively participate in the TA meaning her dreams of a promotion to Sergeant have been shattered.
Commenting on her ordeal, Barbara-Ann said: “Since the attack, my life’s been like a living nightmare I can’t wake up from.
“The trauma of thinking that – through no fault of my own – I’d been infected by a truly dreadful and life changing disease, having to take treatment with awful side effects and enduring a six month wait to find out my fate – has been torturous.
“I want to compel employers to take every step possible to protect workers so what happened to me can never happen to anyone ever again.
“I’d like to thank the Prison Service Union (PSU) for the help and support offered to me throughout my case.”
Natasha Lewis of Irwin Mitchell's serious injury team said: "Barbara-Ann’s injuries have had a devastating impact on her social and professional life. Forcing her to quit the job she loved, facing a future of financial insecurity, serious uncertainty about her health and psychological damage.
“Whilst she is pleased that her battle for justice has now been won, and that she finally has access to the funds she needs to start rebuilding her life, no amount of money will ever truly compensate her for what she has been through.
“To learn that another officer had suffered a similar attack just days before, and that still precautionary measures had not been put in place to protect staff against a clearly violent and dangerous individual has been a serious cause for concern.
“It is now imperative that G4S Ltd demonstrate that every step has been taken to ensure that nothing like this every happens again, and provide reassurance to Barbara-Ann that lessons have been learnt so that no one should have to suffer as she has going forward.”
Natasha explained that Barbara-Ann now has access to the funds she needs to receive the very best care and rehabilitation to help her rebuild her life. She said: “Barbara-Ann can now look forward to a much brighter future. Her damages will enable her to continue to receive the support she requires and will provide her with some financial security, as her ability to work in the future is compromised.