Court tells prison guards to go and get screwed
It is hard to imagine why someone would choose a career as a prison guard. It must be a hell of a way to make a living, being locked up with the most anti-social members of the community - or more accurately, people who have been denied membership of the community on account of being so anti-social.
Anyone who finds themselves considering working in this thankless high-risk occupation is now probably less inclined to do so, after a strange court decision saw a corrections officer facing seven months in jail after being gobbed on by a convicted gangster with Hepatitis C at a Newcastle lockup.
The jailing of prison guard Terry Dolling is strange on several levels. It’s strange because he has a completely blemish-free record throughout a fairly long career in corrections. It’s strange because not even the Crown was seeking jail time in prosecuting Dolling but was happy for the charges to be dismissed under section 10. It is most strange because of the level of provocation he was forced to endure, copping a faceful of saliva from a hyper-aggressive prisoner who was refusing to take instructions and had to be locked in his cell.
The footage of Dolling laying into prisoner Daniel Vos is pretty full-on. Dolling exploded and punched him in the head 20 times. The guard landed a few good ones and left the prisoner with a cut lip, bruising and abrasions, probably a bit of a headache. Breaks your heart.
What the court saw as unjustified thuggery seemed to me to be a perfectly defensible and fairly approximate human response to what had Dolling had just been forced to endure. As such, surely it is the prisoner, and not the prison guard, who should be blamed for what happened next? Dolling’s instantaneous reaction would be the reaction of any reasonable person. The comments of the magistrate in this case again highlight the gulf between what a reasonable person would think, and the way the courts think, as in this case they appear to have stunned even the prosecution by putting Dolling away.
Toronto Local Court Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson started her judgment with this promising observation: “There’s no dispute that spitting in someone’s face and eye is a dreadful thing.” Indeed. Although sadly for Mr Dolling, it was all downhill from there.
“As difficult as it may be when a person is a victim of crime he or she must leave it to the appropriate authorities to deal with the matter,” Magistrate Atkinson continued.
“It was a gross breach of his duty of care to Mr Vos, a person in a vulnerable position in that he was confined to his cell and could not escape.”
So the first thing Dolling should have done was to sit back and calmly wipe the Hep C-infected spit from his face, in the hope that someone would arrest Vos, that he would then be charged, the matter would proceed through the courts swiftly, and time would be added to his sentence. This suggests an extraordinarily high level of faith and patience, indeed a super-human level of faith patience, at the unlikely prospect of the cogs of justice ever kicking into gear.
The second thing Dolling should have done was realise that he owes a duty of care to someone who is trying to assault and possibly infect him.
The prison officers’ union has embarked on an industrial campaign against this decision and the precedent it sets. I’m not normally someone who would cheer on a strike but in this case I wish them the very best of luck as they withdraw their labour. The men and women who work in our prisons get paid bugger-all and endure the most hellish conditions, and if a court reckons that their day job should now include remaining happy and relaxed as they get spat at by people with communicable diseases, they have every right to clock off until sanity is restored and community standards are upheld.
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