A PRISON officer was off work for a year as a result of a sudden attack by an unpredictable inmate, unhappy at the prospect of a move to another establishment. 

Christopher Phillips’ behaviour was said to have deteriorated in the period leading up to the attack, at Frankland Prison, near Durham, on March 17, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard he was in a unit for inmates with complex personality disorders where he had issued verbal threats to staff members and at times refused to take his prescribed medication in the preceding weeks.

Andrew Walker, prosecuting, said on the day in question Phillips was unlocked from his cell and taken for treatment.

The staff were aware Phillips was due to be transferred out of Frankland that day.

Read more: Inmate was making protest at planned move from County Durham jail

On his return he appeared agitated and, as an officer went to lock the cell door, Phillips slammed it shut and began kicking things around his cell.

The officer stood in the cell doorway and asked Phillips what was the problem, but the inmate approached him, and pushed him with both hands before a scuffle took place in which he grabbed hold of his left ear.

Mr Walker said in the commotion the officer fell onto the cell bed and floor, all the time being held by the ear in the tight, painful grip by the angry inmate.

Other staff members came to his aid and released the officer, who was taken to the healthcare unit and on to hospital, where the plastics team treated him for cuts to a complex wound, with cartilage in the damaged ear exposed.

He received 12 stitches but was left with a ringing in his ear for some time, and, despite the use of pain killers, was told the pain would persist for some time.

Mr Walker said although the physical injuries healed in time the officer suffered psychologically and was off work for about a year, on medication as well as receiving counselling for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In his most recent impact statement the experienced officer, with a 20-year service career, said he has now returned to the job he enjoys, but is so far on non-prisoner contact duties.

The 40-year-old defendant, from Market Drayton, in Shropshire, was said to have been moody over the prospect of a move from Frankland to a prison in Birmingham.

When interviewed he denied assaulting the officer and grabbing his ear, and it was only in the week of his scheduled trial, last month, that he admitted a charge of unlawful wounding.

The court heard Phillips was nearing the end of a ten-year prison sentence for arson at the time of the incident, a sentence which has since expired, but, in the interim, he has served a four-month prison term for assaulting an emergency worker.

Stephen Hamill, in mitigation, said the incident took place against a background of the defendant’s mental health problems and described it as, “an impulsive, spontaneous and short-lived assault”, for which he is now ashamed, wanting to apologise to the officer.

But Judge Ray Singh disagreed, saying it was neither impulsive, spontaneous or short-lived and was exacerbated by the defendant’s refusal to take his medication.

Imposing a further 32-month prison sentence on Phillips, he told him: “It wasn’t impulsive. There was a build-up and you were agitated when back at your cell.”

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