Officer guilty of misconduct after prison death

A SENIOR correctional officer has been found guilty of serious misconduct following the 2011 death of a Grafton Prison inmate.

Richard Woelfl was the prison's highest-ranking rostered officer when Woolgoolga man Ian Klum was injured in a suspected assault in his cell on the night of June 14, 2010.

Mr Klum, who was in prison for traffic offences, died from blood clots in his brain four days later.

Woelfl's conduct has been assessed on several occasions, culminating in an appeal and total review of the case by the full bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

The commission heard Mr Woelfl and two other officers, Matthew Barnett and David Pearcey, responded to a "knock-up" call to Mr Klum's cell at 2.20am.

The officers did not enter the cell or turn on its light, but saw Mr Klum slouched on the floor with blood smeared around his nose and mouth.

Woelfl told Mr Klum to come to the cell door, but he was moaning and saying he could not.

Eventually, Mr Klum crawled to the door and complained of a headache before a nearby cell was opened and he crawled inside on his hands and knees.

Woelfl told the other officers not to pick Mr Klum up off the floor because he suspected he was "bunging something on".

None of the officers secured Mr Klum's former cell as a crime scene, despite Mr Woelfl telling an after-hours nurse manager he had "just had an assault up here and I want to get this guy checked for a head trauma because he was a bit sluggish on his feet".

Mr Klum pleaded with staff to take him to hospital until arrangements were made at 5.30am.

Woelfl still considered the injuries to be minor until the nurse told him Mr Klum's had existing blood-clotting issues.

Mr Klum's condition deteriorated at Grafton Hospital and he was transferred to Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, where he died four days later.

His cell was secured as a crime scene at 10.30am and significant blood stains were found on bed sheets, the wall and the floor.

Mr Woelfl has been suspended on pay since June, 2010.

The commission found Mr Woelfl guilty of misconduct for failing to secure the crime scene, not moving Mr Klum into a suitable place of confinement, not inspecting the cell and not properly assessing Mr Klum's injuries or the cell to determine what had happened.

"If he had done so he would have been in a better position to decide an appropriate course of action, or at least be able to seek advice on an appropriate course of action having provided more information about Mr Klum's condition, including the fact there may have been significant blood loss," the commission found.

"It is a safe inference to draw that in all likelihood this would have led to far greater urgency being applied to Mr Klum's treatment."

The commission found dismissal was not too harsh a punishment in light of Woelfl's serious misconduct.

"It is a matter now for the department to decide whether it wishes to proceed to implement its threat."

-APN NEWSDESK


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