A prison officer claims she was hounded out of her job by repeated criticism for being ‘too sexy’ and ‘glammed up’.
Amitjo Kajla, 22, is demanding compensation from Justice Secretary Jack Straw. The 5ft officer told an employment tribunal how colleagues complained that she wore too much make-up and that her clothing was more revealing than the standard-issue uniform, which had to be adapted to her tiny size-four frame. One young inmate told her: ‘Miss, you look sexy’, prompting colleagues to warn the officer that her glamorous appearance left her at risk of being dragged into a cell. Another inmate was overheard telling Miss Kajla: ‘I wouldn’t mind taking you back to a cell’, the tribunal heard. Miss Kajla claimed she was called a ‘stupid little girl’ by a senior colleague for putting her security at risk by sitting with prisoners during their ‘free association’ period. She added that she was mocked by staff at Brinsford Young Offenders’ Institution, in Featherstone, Staffordshire, for carrying a handbag and reprimanded for waving and saying ‘hello’ to inmates.
The remarks, often made in front of inmates and other staff, made her feel harassed and humiliated, she told the tribunal. ‘I couldn’t sleep at night because of the bullying and harassment. I lost weight and decided I couldn’t take it any longer and resigned.’ Miss Kajla, from Wolverhampton, is claiming compensation for constructive unfair dismissal.
The respondents are listed as the ‘Secretary of State for Justice and others’, understood to include prison officer Lee Hastings. She claims she was effectively sacked by the prison service in April last year, ten months after moving to Brinsford after a trouble-free spell at Shrewsbury Prison.
The Birmingham tribunal has already heard that shortly after she started at Brinsford, one of the governors reprimanded her for wearing heavy make-up, bangles and a nose stud. Despite writing in her diary: ‘Make-up is me, I don’t want to change me’, she bought lighter shades of lipstick and other make-up to comply with the rules.
Adam Farrer, for the prison service, suggested that going to work ‘glammed up’ was not appropriate and that she was seen by inmates as a ‘soft touch’. But Miss Kajla replied that she had been taught to take pride in her appearance. Responding to criticism of her informality with inmates, she said: ‘I was always friendly but never a friend.’ The tribunal heard how Miss Kajla would often sit with groups of prisoners on her own.
Giving evidence, Mr Hastings told the tribunal panel this showed a ‘lack of personal safety’. He denied a claim by Stephen Roberts, representing Miss Kajla, that he had ‘bullied and intimidated’ Miss Kajla because she was ‘pretty and small’. The prison officer said he had simply been concerned that ‘repeated actions were breaching security issues within the prison service’.
He added: ‘The young offenders are without doubt the most spontaneous, volatile and violent ones.’ Mr Straw is not expected to be called to give evidence at the tribunal, which continues.
(Source: Daily Mail Online)