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Armstrong v Secretary of State for the Home Department

16 October 2001
The issues

Psychiatric Injury – Reasonable foreseeable risk.

The facts

The Claimant was a Prison Officer there were three Officers involved in the supervision of Rosemary West. She had been required to spend time with West during which she had been actively encouraged to establish a close relationship to prevent West from committing suicide. She alleged she had not been supervised in this task and had become too closely involved, and had come to believe that West was innocent losing her objectivity. She alleged she had developed a post-traumatic stress disorder when West was convicted.

The decision

1. The Claimant had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and all the symptoms were attributable to her relationship with West.

2. Three questions were to be asked:-

(i) Whether her work created a reasonably foreseeable risk of psychiatric injury.

(ii) Whether the system of work was reasonable.

(iii) If the answer to the first question was ‘yes’ and the second ‘no’, had the failure to adopt a reasonable system caused the injury.

As a fact it was found that she had not been encouraged to form a relationship with West and her request to go to Court was a normal part of her duties. There were no features of her work given rise to a foreseeable risk of psychiatric injury, notwithstanding that the unusual regime was inherently stressful to some extent. Attempts however have been made to deal with this by ensuring that there were always two Officers on duty and that there were substantial breaks between shifts.

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