London, Dec. 3: A prison officer was sacked for making an allegedly insulting remark about Osama bin Laden two months after the September 11 attacks, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.
Colin Rose, 53, was told he had to go because, although he did not know it, three Muslim visitors could have heard his “insensitive” comment about the world’s most reviled terrorist.
The assistant governor at Blundeston Prison, near Lowestoft, Suffolk, gave him a ticking off at the time. But he was sacked after a six-month investigation.
Rose, a former guardsman with a 21-year unblemished record in the prison service, is claiming unfair dismissal.
The Norwich hearing was told that on November 15, 2001, he threw some keys into a metal chute at the prison gatehouse.
When someone said it sounded as if he had thrown them so hard that they were going through the tray at the bottom of the chute, Rose said: “There’s a photo of Osama bin Laden there.”
Peter McKinnon, another prison officer, told him to be quiet because two Asian women wearing headscarves and an Asian man were at the window of the gatehouse.
The investigation never discovered whether the visitors heard the comment. Andrew Rogers, the assistant governor, told the tribunal: “I am not sure whether Rose saw the visitors.
“I took offence at the comment. If the visitors had heard the comment, they might have taken offence, too.” When Rose was carpeted the next day, he said it was only a throwaway remark.
But a few days later, while he was off with a recurrence of a back injury he suffered when suppressing a violent inmate, the investigation was ordered.
When he returned after a fortnight, Jerry Knight, the prison governor, suspended him pending a formal inquiry.
He was sacked in May last year after a disciplinary hearing.
Knight told the tribunal that the prison had a large Asian population, including many Muslims. “On September 25, 2001, a staff notice was issued regarding the terrorist bombing of America, asking for staff to have continued sensitivity.
“I asked them to avoid inflaming the situation.”
Prison officer Mark Ewels, who conducted the investigation, said he had not tried to track down the Asians to find out if they had heard the remark because he thought the issue was too sensitive to raise with them.
The hearing continues.