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Security Firm Serco Fined £2.25m After Death of Custody Officer

Security Firm Serco Fined £2.25m After Death of Custody Officer
30 May 2023

Serco has been fined £2.25 million after several health and safety failures lead to the death of Custody Officer Lorraine Barwell.

Lorraine was assaulted at Blackfriars Crown Court in 2015 during the restraint of a prisoner in custody. She later died from a brain injury. Lorraine had worked for Serco for ten years and was 54 years old when she died.

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

There were also insufficient procedures in place to provide readily accessible protective equipment and to ensure further training was provided where identified as required.

A continued failure over a period of three years to adequately staff court activities was also found, including a failure to manage working hours and assess risks of violence and aggression.

In a separate incident in 2016, another member of Serco staff was assaulted in the Woolwich Court annexe. The alarm button was pressed, but there were no staff manning the annexe to respond and so it took time to call and gain assistance from the main building. There should have been 32 of Serco Limited’s officers at court that day, but there were only 22.

According to the HSE, these failures meant violations of procedures were "routine" in order for the staff to get the job done. Yet the failings remained unchallenged by Serco, despite being raised by HM Prisons Inspectorate, Ministry of Justice, HSE Inspectors and Serco’s own staff.

At Southwark Crown Court, Serco Ltd 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.


“No matter what work environment you are in, health and safety regulation is designed to protect people at work. We will not hesitate to act against those who fail to protect their workers.”

–Helen Donnelly

Inspector, HSE


Serco Fined £2.25 Million and Ordered to Pay £433,596.07 in Costs


At the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) Serco was fined £2.25 million and ordered to pay £433,596.07 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Helen Donnelly said: “Serco drastically failed in their duties to protect both Lorraine Barwell and other staff over a sustained period. It is not common to have a case covering such an extended period, but it appeared that Serco Limited were not learning from their mistakes. 

“Lorraine Barwell and her colleagues were just doing their job and should have been protected from harm. Had Serco carried out their legal duties, these incidents could have been prevented.

“While this investigation has been long and complex, we hope Lorraine’s friends and family will find some comfort in today’s sentence and see that justice has now been served.

“No matter what work environment you are in, health and safety regulation is designed to protect people at work. We will not hesitate to act against those who fail to protect their workers.”

In a victim impact statement, Lorraine’s daughter Louise Grennan, said: “Our mum was a wonderful loving supportive mother to myself, my brother and her two granddaughters whom she adored and loved, and they adored her. She too was a friend to many and loved by many. To lose her has left a huge void in everyone’s hearts.

“Mum was my best friend and she helped me care for my daughter. We spoke about plans to move abroad to live in the sun once mum had retired from work. That has all gone now.”

Picture: Serco logo. Image Credit: Serco

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 30 May 2023


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