Monday, September 04, 2006


A [British] woman prison officer was yesterday awarded nearly 150,000 pounds after being made to carry out intimate "rubdown" searches of male inmates. Carol Saunders, 42, had claimed it was "degrading, distasteful and dehumanising" that she had been made to perform physical searches on male prisoners. She said they subjected her to taunts such as "Higher, miss, higher" during leg searches and "Take as long as you like," leaving her angry and embarrassed.

Yesterday, after she won a landmark claim of sexual discrimination against the Prison Service, Mrs Saunders was awarded an out-of-court settlement of 145,000 pounds.

It is the latest in a line of vast sums awarded to people who claim to have been victimised at work. Last month, former City high-flier Helen Green won a mammoth 800,000 pounds damages award from the bank where she worked after a campaign of "schoolyard" bullying by female colleagues.

Prison officers were not permitted to perform the intimate "rubdown" searches - involving touching the crotch and buttocks - on inmates of the other sex when Mrs Saunders joined the service in 1987. But five years later, after pressure from women warders who said their career prospects were being hampered, the rules were changed so female officers could search inmates of either sex.

Mrs Saunders told an employment tribunal that performing the searches where she worked at Long Lartin high security jail, near Evesham in Worcestershire, made her feel physically sick and angry. Taunts included inmates joking: "It'll be a long time before I get another woman running her hands all over my body." She added that the queue of prisoners waiting to be searched by a female officer was usually longer than that by her male colleagues.

Mrs Saunders, of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, told the hearing: "A male officer is not put through this. To have to carry out this task would not only be degrading and distasteful, it would be dehumanising."

At the start of 2004 she went on sick leave from her 25,000 pounds-a-year job claiming stress, and later that year the tribunal ruled she had suffered sexual discrimination.

The Prison Service lodged an unsuccessful appeal, and yesterday it announced an out-of-court settlement with Mrs Saunders in which she will receive 145,000 pounds.

Mrs Saunders, who has since returned to work after being transferred to Brockhill women's prison in Redditch, was not available for comment yesterday. A Prison Office spokeswoman said the rules on rubdown searches had now been changed. "Since the tribunal judgement, female prison officers are no longer compelled to carry out rubdown searches on male prisoners if they do not wish to," she said. Male prison officers have never been permitted to search female inmates in this way


No pandering to Muslims by the Australian government

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello says Australian Muslim leaders need to stand up and publicly denounce terrorism in all its forms. Mr Costello has also backed calls by Prime Minister John Howard for Islamic migrants to learn English and adopt Australian values, warning quarrels of the old country should not be brought to Australia. "I think the prime minister has a point that migrants who come to Australia are expected to speak English and endorse basic Australian values, and it's going to be a problem for future generations if they don't," Mr Costello told the Nine Network. "We have very, very successfully integrated people from all over the world in this country because we have had the attitude that when you come to Australia, whatever arguments you might have had in the old country we start again, and we start again with a common set of values and a common language."

Mr Howard caused outrage in Australia's Islamic community this week when he said Muslims needed to speak English and show respect to women. Mr Costello today said there was a minority in the Islamic community that had been radicalised and was preying upon young people with dangerous ideologies. It was important that moderate Islamic leaders speak out against the radicals and denounce terrorism in all its forms around the world, he said. "This is where we really need the Islamic leadership of this country to stand up and contend unequivocally that terrorism, no matter who it is perpetrated by, to make it clear that terrorism is never justified, under the cover of religion and to make it clear to would be converts that when you join this religion, you do not join a radical political ideology," Mr Costello said.

He said Australian Muslim leaders had to make it clear that terrorism had nothing to do with real Islam. "You have seen under the cover of a radical form of Islam, terrorism being perpetrated," Mr Costello said. "You have seen it with September the 11th, you have seen it in Bali, you have seen it with the London bombings and it is very, very important that the leadership of Australia are very clear and very precise that this is not real Islam, that terrorism is always wrong and terrorism is always to be condemned no matter what religion they seek to use as a cover."


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