A prison officer who made a protected disclosure about a violent incident in prison which went unreported has been threatened with dismissal for not completing an academic course.
Gerard Butler, who joined the prison service in 2010, has been told a file on his failure to complete an academic course has been forwarded to the Department of Justice with a recommendation that he be dismissed.
The prison service has confirmed no one in recent years has been dismissed for not completing the mandatory Higher Certificate in Custodial Care (HCCC).
Last year, Mr Butler made a protected disclosure to the Minister for Justice about a violent incident in Cloverhill prison, dating from April 2013, which he claimed had not been recorded.
However, an investigation by the department’s internal audit team upheld Mr Butler’s disclosure, ruling that “an incident occurred on the date in question in which force was used (control and restraint) and which was not reported in line with a legal obligation”.
For nearly three years after the incident, the Irish Prison Service had denied anything had occurred on the date in question. No records, or relevant CCTV footage, had been kept as per procedure following the incident on April 6, 2013.
Mr Butler claims he suffered a back injury in the incident which kept him out of work for over two years. He made repeated efforts to have his injury recognised as being work related, but both the prison and the prison service repeatedly replied to his claims by stating that no such incident had occurred.
While the department upheld his disclosure, it also found “there is insufficient evidence to conclude that officer Butler’s back injury is a result of the unreported incident that took place.”
Mr Butler claims once he referenced the incident in relation to his injury, he became a persona non grata.
After he returned to work in October 2015, he claims he was subjected to bullying and harassment. According to a report seen by the Irish Examiner, the prison service investigated these claims and found “there is no evidence to support them”.
Last week, Mr Butler was informed his file has now gone to the Department of Justice with a recommendation that he dismissed.
Mr Butler says he has made efforts to comply but was unable to do so because of his back injury initially and subsequently due certified sick leave over work related stress
He has lodged a claim for loss of earnings with the Criminal Injuries Tribunal. An Irish Prison Service spokesman said it is constrained on what it can say due to confidentiality on protected disclosures. He confirmed that nobody has been dismissed from the prison service in the last five years for a failure to complete the HCCC course.
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