Peter Cruickshank secures acquittal of prison officer charged with s.18 GBH on a prisoner

March 14, 2024

Peter Cruickshank

This case concerned an incident that took place in May 2020 at HMP Thameside, during the service of food at dinner, a prisoner threw a kettle of boiling water over a prison officer. The alarm was pressed and a large number of prison officers attended the scene. Five prison officers then went into the prisoner’s cell, and it was the Prosecution case that those officers gave the prisoner a punishment beating in retaliation for the ‘kettling’. The prisoner suffered serious head injuries and remained too unwell to be able to give evidence at the trial.

The five prison officers who went into the cell were charged with intentionally causing GBH on the prisoner, contrary to s.18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. They were also all charged with two counts of misconduct in a public office. The first count of misconduct was that they failed to prevent the assault when they saw it take place. The second count of misconduct was that they then purposefully withheld medical care to the prisoner after the assault. All of the Defendants had been serving prison officers at the time of the incident.

Peter Cruickshank, defending, was instructed to represent one of the prison officers who went into the cell. The defence was that he did not participate in any way in an assault, and took reasonable steps both to stop it when it took place and to secure medical attention afterwards. Prosecution was led by a leading silk and junior. The trial lasted for more than 8 weeks, with the jury returning verdicts on the Monday of week 9.

The trial heard evidence from a large number of Prosecution witnesses which included prison officers, as well as medical experts regarding the causation of the injuries. The trial also involved significant matters of law including bad character, hearsay, and disclosure. Indeed, the Prosecution made an application for Public Interest Immunity during the course of the trial.

Mr Cruickshank’s client was acquitted of all charges by the jury. Other Defendants were convicted of s.18 GBH and misconduct in public office.

Peter Cruickshank was instructed by John Roberts of Gulland’s solicitors of Maidstone, Kent.