Serco fined £2.25 million for H&S Failings following the Death of Custody Officer

Ms Barwell, a 54-year-old grandmother was kicked twice at Blackfriars Crown Court in 2015 during the restraint of a prisoner in custody. She died from brain injuries caused by the second blow.

Ms Barwell had worked for Hampshire-based security firm Serco for 10 years when the attack took place.

The incident led to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that found that Serco Limited had failed to properly analyse risk intelligence on prisoners and communicate risks and safety precautions to staff.

It’s madness to be doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome

Working on your own without the appropriate number of staff on shift.

Not having enough staff on duty to respond to alarm calls for immediate back-up and support.

The placing of handcuffs upon a person should not be done until one has established a level of control!

When placing handcuffs upon a person one should not:

  • Handcuff the person to yourself!
  • Handcuff the person to a fixed or moving object!
  • Leave a handcuffed the person unattended!

You can read the full article here –

Every plan must have an exit strategy built into the plan

Do policies which state that you must handcuff yourself to a subject align with the above heading?

How are you going to execute an escape when handcuffed to the person?

If you perceive or belief that a person has the intent, ability or opportunity to cause harm, then that alone may be the basis for placing handcuffs upon a person.  This alone implies there is a perceived or factual level of risk and/or threat.

Hierarchy of Risk Control

A systematic approach to the management of risk, providing a framework towards implementing control measures.

  • Eliminate
  • Reduce
  • Isolate
  • Control
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Discipline – ie; dissemination of communication/information

When reviewing people, environments and the task the aim is to eliminate and minimise hazards and reduce associated risks.

This also means having PPE accessible when are where needed!

Duty to Protect Staff from Foreseeable Risk of Harm

All Employers have a duty to Protect Staff from Foreseeable Risks.

Serco pleaded guilty to charges under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 contrary to Section 33(1) (a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

They were fined £2.25m and ordered to pay £433,596.07 in costs!

Another case of a Person who has lost their life through inadequate procedures and training

Cases like this ruin innocent people’s lives, cause unnecessary distress and waste a lot of time and money.

This could have been avoided if:

  1. Proper training was given;
  2. Correct policies and procedures were in place;
  3. An assessment of the risks was carried out by competent persons
  4. Any initial investigation was done by people who understood the legalities surrounding the use of force.

I have actually been involved in similar cases where staff were blindly following policies in the belief that they were not allowed to protect themselves from harm.

They were not empowered to carry out any form of dynamic risk assessment to do what they felt was reasonable in the circumstances.

We have supported companies and individuals whereby the case against them has been dropped.

This is because we actively offer support to anyone we train.

We continue to provide this support for people we’ve trained who also work in the healthcare, NHS, Local authorities and security sectors too.

Oh, and by the way, we do this free of charge too.

Now many of you will know Mark Dawes, the previous owner of NFPS Ltd.

But you may not know me, or at least my background and experience.

So, here’s a brief overview of me for you.

Who is Trevel Henry  

I am a long-established trainer and consultant.

I was the former head of training for a major Police Service, so I have experience in not only delivering training but experience in developing, reviewing, evaluating and auditing training too.

Whilst working there I was regularly asked by the complaints and discipline unit to review disciplinary cases, many of which involved the use of force.

I am a highly respected Expert Witness on the Use of Reasonable Force in the UK and overseas.

I have done over three hundred expert witness cases.

I have worked on high profile cases where restraint related issues have been a key factor, involving the police, prison, security, schools, care setting, NHS and young people’s services.

But what does this mean to you.

It means that NFPS Ltd (of which I am one of the new Directors) can provide training for you that is legally defensible.

This continues the legacy started by Mark Dawes.

The Problem with Physical Intervention Training

The problem is that nowadays organisations just seem to be looking for anyone that can provide certain ‘certification’, without doing any further due diligence checks.

You have to ask yourself this question – Why do some individuals and training providers sign up for these certification schemes?

It’s simple really.

They don’t have the experience, expertise, authority and trust to get business on their own merit.

Hiding Behind Physical Intervention Certification

So, they hide behind the veil of certification to cover up and obscure their lack of those qualities.

And guess what?

When things go wrong no ‘certification’ will help you in court!

As I’ve mentioned I’ve been involved in hundreds of expert witness cases.

In every one of them, both criminal and civil, no standard of certification was asked for.


Simple really.

A criminal court is interested in whether or not the use of force used was reasonable in the circumstances.

In civil cases, the court is looking to see whether the claimant can prove negligence against the defendant.

So, certification can be (and generally is) a complete waste of time.

And certification isn’t the same as proper ‘accreditation’ either.

This Is What’s Most Important with Regards To Physical Intervention Training

What is most important is the experience, expertise, authority, trust and competence of your chosen training provider.

Especially when it comes to the use of physical intervention.

Because physical intervention is a very contentious issue.

This is why we put our money where our mouth is and offer to support those we train.

And let me tell you something else.

You Should Want A Training Provider Who Will Turn Up To Support You

In all of the expert witness cases I’ve been involved with not once has a training provider shown up in court to support the person they trained.

In fact many do the opposite!

They’ll claim that the person under investigation didn’t do the technique properly as it is shown in the manual.

The reason why?

They’d rather leave the individual to fend for themselves than lose the training contract.

With us we’d rather lose the training contract than help throw a decent person under the bus.

The Solution To The Problem

The problem is finding the right provider – and finding the time to do this.

When you train with us you will receive a proper accredited qualification.

  • BTEC Level 3 Award in the Delivery of Conflict Management Training
  • BTEC Level 3 Award in Physical Restraint Instruction.
  • BTEC Level 3 Award in the Delivery of Handcuff Training

There are other courses available for people new to instructing or for already qualified instructors who are seeking to continue their professional development.

Issued by one of the largest Educational Awarding Organisations in the world.

We have the relevant Experience, Expertise, Authority, Honesty, Trust, Integrity and Support.

So, if you are interested in becoming a competent and experienced trainer, with the back-up and support you may well need one day, talk to us.

We Will Be There For You Long After The Training Has Ended

There’s nothing worse than using physical force and then being accused of something and having no-one around to support you who knows what they are talking about.

We’ll be there for you long after the training has ended.

I also promise that we won’t try and ‘sell’ you a place on a course either.

Our primary concern is that you get the right training to suit your needs.

You making the right decision for you is our only priority.

We don’t want you to end up in a situation like Lorraine Barwell, and other colleagues who have suffered severe injuries.

The custody officer we wrote about at the beginning of this post.

That’s not a nice place to be at all.

We want you to be safe in the knowledge that you have had legally defensible conflict management, physical intervention and handcuff training from very competent instructors with support systems in place should you ever need to call on us.

To find out more contact us at – and let’s arrange to talk.

PS: When it comes to preventing or managing challenging, aggressive or violent behaviour you will be aware of the risks to your staff.  The risks can be minimised through due diligence and implementing an effective and relevant training needs analysis.  If you are unsure of what to do then please feel free to get in touch. 

We have the qualifications, knowledge, experience and expertise to advise you from a very competent perspective, which can save you a lot of time and money, especially if you get it wrong as in the case mentioned in this article.

That’s an investment worth considering.

To make an enquiry contact us at – and let’s arrange to talk.