POA Circulars

103 | 15.12.2015

PSI 30/2015 Amendments to the Use of Force Policy

The above PSI was issued on the 4th November 2015 and by now all Governors should have advised members of the contents, ensured their establishments risk assessments and safe systems of work have been reviewed and updated with appropriate resources in place to comply with these instructions at all times. If your Governor has failed to comply with the contents of this PSI fully, a dispute should be raised using the attached SFC as part of the process.

Attached to this Circular is a document entitled ‘POA Guidance for Members on the Use of Force’. Members should familiarise themselves with this Guidance and copies should be placed on Notice Boards.

NOMS consistently issue policy which sets out that additional resources should be minimal or nil as is the case in this PSI when clearly the ramifications of this PSI require additional staff over and above the current benchmark profiles and staffing. The contents of this Prison Service Instruction may be used in an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing resulting in members being dismissed. In addition this PSI may be used by external organisations such as the Coroner, Police and CPS again failure to comply may lead to a member facing a custodial sentence.

PSI 29/2015 amends PSO 1600 Use of Force to introduce amendments to policy relating to personal safety, use of batons, refresher training, establishment monitoring and debriefing.

PSO 1600 remains in force.

In order for use of force to be justified and therefore legal, it must be reasonable in the circumstances, necessary, no more force than is necessary and proportionate to the seriousness of the circumstances. The legal basis for any use of force is set out in full in PSO 1600, section 2, “Policy law and theory relating to the use of force”.

The POA National Executive Committee has serious concerns for our members due to the application of the PSO 6/2010 by management when dealing with members who have used force to deal with an incident which they deemed necessary. All too often members are being dismissed because the hearing authority believed, the use of force was excessive, unnecessary, or that an assault had taken place, even when the member had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Police, CPS and or the Courts.

The NEC has written to NOMS to seek a review on PSI 6/2010 and set out some of our concerns but NOMS refuse to consider reviewing the policy until 2017 at the earliest. This is unacceptable. In order to protect your health and safety until a satisfactory position is achieved, the NEC urge all members to take appropriate and legitimate steps in line with this instruction to deal with issues whilst protecting themselves and third parties.

The paragraphs relating to personal safety techniques are applicable to all types of NOMS establishment.

Staff use personal safety techniques in the correct circumstances, when it is lawful and necessary, to prevent harm to themselves or a third party.

Personal safety techniques involve the application of a use of force outside of formal restraint techniques by an individual seeking to protect themselves or others (e.g. another member of staff or prisoner). They can be used by any member of staff who works in an establishment.

The NEC suggests that only formal restraint techniques are used in all cases and members follow the following save for exceptional and life threatening situations.

Judging reasonable use of force, Retreating & Inappropriate use of force

  • Control or evade a violent situation;
  • Use verbal de-escalation, giving instructions to prisoners to stop fighting, return to their cell for example,
  • Pressing an alarm bell and awaiting assistance,
  • Securing the prisoner/s and or area,
  • Retreating to a place of safety and observing the incident,
  • Remove and relocate the prisoner using formal restraint techniques only.

The law includes a number of provisions for self-defence and it is that same law on which prison staff rely when using force to defend themselves in prison.

All staff in prisoner-facing roles must be familiar with the main points of this law and managers reviewing use of such techniques during investigations must be familiar with the actions that staff are, and are not, lawfully allowed to carry out when defending themselves.

“The NEC does not believe that Governors are trained or aware of the legal points of law or test that they should use during investigations and or disciplinary hearings and have not ensured that their staff are aware either.”

Key legal issues involved in use of force for self-defence (quotes are from CPS guidance):

Provision in Law:
A person can use force to defend himself or another provided that – (1) it is necessary to use force; and, (2) the force used is reasonable in the light of the threat perceived by the member of staff at the time.

Judging reasonable use of force:
The law recognises that in circumstances of self-defence it is difficult to judge the exact amount of force to use in any set of circumstances. CPS guidance states that “a person defending himself cannot weigh to a nicety the exact measure of his defensive action”. However, this does not mean that any amount of force can be used.
A member of staff who is attacked must not use clearly disproportionate amounts of force in self-defence given the circumstances of the attack and, of course, the use of that force must have been necessary (i.e. there were no reasonable alternatives such as retreating and summoning assistance).

Reasonable belief at the time:
Someone using force to defend themselves must be judged in the light of what they reasonably and honestly believed to be the situation at the time of the attack and not on a fresh interpretation with the benefit of hindsight or on new facts uncovered later. For example, if a member of staff reasonably and honestly believed he was being attacked with an iron bar then his defensive action should be judged against that and not on the fact that the weapon subsequently turned out to be a less dangerous painted cardboard replica.

Pre-emptive Strikes:
“There is no rule in law to say that a person must wait to be struck first before they can defend themselves”. There must however, be an honest belief by the member of staff that he or she was about to be attacked and, as with other uses of force, the pre-emptive force used in self-defence must be reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.

Staff should not use force even in self-defence when there are other options available, such as retreating and summoning help, which do not compromise the safety of themselves or others.

Inappropriate use of force:
This occurs in situations where it is clear to a reasonable person that the level of force used in response to an attack was disproportionate in the circumstances or where it was clearly unnecessary as there were other obvious options open to the member of staff in order to defend themselves and/or break away from the attack.

Refresher Training – Use of Force training for operational staff bands 3-5

All operational staff in bands 3-5 must attend an 8 hours of C&R Basic refresher training every 12 months. Staff returning from an extended period of sick leave, maternity leave or a career break who return to duty and have not completed training in the previous 12 months must complete refresher training as soon and possible on return and in any event within 3 months of resuming duty.

In the exceptional circumstances that staff have not completed refresher training within 12 months, Governors must ensure that refresher training is provided as soon as possible. In the interim, these staff are not able to take part in any planned use of force but may take part in unplanned use of force where there is an immediate threat to life / limb or to the security of the establishment and staff need to intervene straight away. Where possible, they should be replaced with staff who have attended training within the previous 12 months.

“The NEC doesn’t believe that staff who have not had their refresher training should be allowed to work nights as all removals will be planned and therefore local committees should raise this with Governors as a matter of urgency.”

All Staff involved in use of force – completing the Use of Force Form and Statement

The Use of Force Form and all statements must be completed as soon as possible and within 72 hours of any force being used except in exceptional circumstances such as injury to the staff member. Staff must complete any outstanding reports prior to commencing any period away from the establishment such as annual leave, detached duty or training.

“The NEC would like to take this opportunity to remind members of this change in policy to ensure they are not pressurised into submitting paperwork following a difficult and traumatic incident.”

Debrief -Officers involved in the incident

Immediately following any and all use of force, a “hot debrief” must be completed to identify if there are any injuries or immediate security concerns including the risk of further violent behaviour.

The use of force to control serious incidents is often the only solution, but the Executive urge all members to follow the de-escalation techniques and follow the advice and guidance contained within the PSI.

The Executive would like to take this opportunity to remind members that C&R is a mandatory requirement for operational staff at Band 3 and above but advanced C&R is voluntary.

Please draw the contents of this Circular to the membership and your local management to ensure safe systems of work, risk assessments and contingency plans are fit for purpose reviewed and compliant.

Thanking you in anticipation of your support and co-operation.

Yours sincerely

General Secretary