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Stab vest did not cause Sittingbourne PCSO's health issues, court decides

A former Sittingbourne PCSO, who claimed her stab vest caused her health problems, has lost her civil case for damages.

Hayley Russell, 36, has sued Kent’s Chief Constable claiming she hadn’t been measured correctly for her personal protection equipment in 2007.

She told Canterbury County Court that wearing the vest on patrol had made a spine condition much worse.

The government said too many people with mental health problems end up in police cells because there's often no alternative. Stock picture
The government said too many people with mental health problems end up in police cells because there's often no alternative. Stock picture

The mum-of-two told the judge: “I think it was incorrectly measured at the start. It caused me problems from the start.

“I was always complaining about my neck aching and was always lifting it above my shoulders to release the pressure.”

But she admitted she hadn’t complained to senior officers at the time adding: “I just thought that I had to maybe live with it and get on with it.”

By November 2011 she was being treated for a degenerative problem with her spine and went on sick leave.

She said she had seen a GP “on and off for years” because of a “flare up of pain” and underwent physiotherapy.

In March 2012 Ms Russell returned to work doing administrative work which didn’t require her to wear the stab vest.

Doctors recommend surgery, but she cancelled a planned operation after being told there was a 1:500 chance she could be left paralysed.

After another period of sick leave in November 2012, the PCSO again returned to administrative duties in March the following year.

She told Judge William Jackson that she was later re-measured for a new vest which initially felt better.

But Ms Russell said: “The new one felt different at the beginning but then pain returned.”

She added that not all PCSOs were required to wear the vests on duty “but I wouldn’t go on duty without wearing one.”

At the end of cross-examination by lawyers for the Chief Constable, the judge threw out the case.

Judge Jackson said that recent events in Canterbury – when police were called to two fatal stabbings – had showed how important stab vests were to police officers tasked with dealing with violent crimes.

But he said Ms Russell’s evidence had not shown a causal link between her wearing the stab vest and the worsening of her spinal problems, or that the wrong size vest had been worn during her period as a PCSO.


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