A murder conviction raises fresh doubts about a government outsourcer's competence and integrity reports Clare Sambrook
Last November a 42 year-old pharmaceutical worker from Thailand took part in a conference about HIV treatment at Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium. Her name was Khanokporn Satjawat. A G4S guard checked Satjawat's ID. He didn't like her manner. Later he followed her into the toilets and bludgeoned her to death with a fire extinguisher.
Yesterday, at the High Court in Glasgow, Clive Carter was found guilty of Khanokporn Satjawat's murder. The court heard that the 35 year-old G4S man tended to become enraged when women contradicted him. In a police interview his wife described him as "violent and manipulative". His GP had referred him for anger management counselling.
A few days before the killing, Carter had knocked on a woman’s door at the Holiday Inn Express hotel, carrying a fire extinguisher and claiming there had been a report of a fire.
G4S works on police investigations, runs prisons, children's homes and detention centres, among other privatised public services. They're having a very bad month. Their UK flagship Oakwood Prison is in crisis. In South Africa, the state has taken back control of G4S Mangaung Prison; guards are accused of torturing inmates.
Yesterday's murder conviction raises fresh doubts about G4S's fitness for public service.
"A robust employee screening programme helps organisations minimise the risk of making inappropriate recruitment decisions," G4S tells potential customers.
"We have a wealth of experience in developing and implementing background checks and security clearance for companies in the private and public sector."
But is G4S any good at it? What evidence is there of G4S's commitment to the safety of people who fall under the company's care?
Earlier this year OurKingdom revealed that the health and safety manager for G4S Children's Services was involved nine years ago in the death of child prisoner Gareth Myatt. We noted that the Coroner criticised G4S for ignoring repeated warnings about the use of force and other problems at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby. (PDF here)
Another G4S employee approved by the company's screening process was Danny Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper passed fit for work in Iraq.
Ahead of Fitzsimons's deployment in 2009, a fellow worker sent a series of emails warning G4S about the man's instability.
"I am alarmed that he will shortly be allowed to handle a weapon and be exposed to members of the public,"
wrote the whistleblower, who signed one email "a concerned member of the public and father".
Another email warned:
"Having made you aware of the issues regarding the violent criminal Danny Fitzsimons, it has been noted that you have not taken my advice and still choose to employ him in a position of trust. I have told you that he remains a threat and you have done nothing."
Within 36 hours of arriving in Baghdad’s Green Zone in August 2009, Fitzsimons had shot and killed fellow security contractors Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare.
In 2011 the Karkh Criminal Court of Iraq sentenced him to life in prison for the murders.
His parents said he was suffering from PTSD and should never have been employed in a war zone.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve, said:
“If G4S had done the proper checks and risk assessments when Danny applied to work with them, they would have quickly seen that he was suffering from serious PTSD, a consequence of loyally serving his country. Instead they conducted minimal checks and sent him off to Iraq. Now Danny could spend the rest of his life in a hostile prison hundreds of miles from home, when he should be receiving psychiatric treatment.”
Last year a BBC Scotland investigation unearthed the whistleblower's repeated attempts to alert G4S to Fitzsimons's instability. Why did the company fail to act?
G4S issued a statement, admitting that its screening of Danny Fitzsimons "was not completed in line with the company's procedures".
The statement included a curiously worded assertion about the whistleblower's warnings:
"We are aware of this allegation but following an internal IT investigation it is clear that no such emails were received by any member of our HR department."
Note that G4S is not denying that the company received the warnings, only denying that the human resources department received them. Such assertions are known among reporters as "non-denial denials".
BBC Scotland put a further question to G4S: "When did the company first become aware of the emails and did anyone else - outside of the company's HR department - become aware of them?"
A G4S spokesman replied: "I'm sorry I can't track down the relevant individual so I am afraid we can not comment further on when we received the emails."
G4S's competence and culture were found wanting yet again earlier this year during the Inquest into the death of Angolan asylum seeker Jimmy Mubenga. The Inquest jury found that Mubenga had been unlawfully killed by G4S guards during an attempted deportation in October 2010.
Police checks on guards' mobile phones after the killing revealed numerous racist texts of extreme offensiveness. Assistant deputy coroner Karon Monaghan QC said that the quality and number of racist texts, and the fact that they were circulated widely among G4S guards, suggested not a couple of "rotten apples" but evidence of "a more pervasive racism within G4S". [PDF here]
The Coroner wrote: "For example, one message read as follows:
'fuck off and go home you free-loading, benefit grabbing, kid producing, violent, non-English speaking cock suckers and take those hairy faced, sandal wearing, bomb making, goat fucking, smelly rag head bastards with you.'”
G4S, among other Home Office contractors, had for years been warned about the dangers of excessive force and guards' racist abuse, most resoundingly in the dossier Outsourcing Abuse, published by Medical Justice in July 2008, more than two years before the killing of Jimmy Mubenga.
Today, in response to questions relating to Clive Carter, the guard convicted of murdering Khanokporn Satjawat, G4S told OurKingdom:
"Clive Carter passed screening in May 2010, following receipt of two employment references and two character references. He had a Security Industry Authority licence and therefore went through Home Office screening including a criminal record check."
They went on:
"His instability only became apparent after the murder . . . The incident at the Holiday Inn was not reported to G4S and only came to our attention during the trial. Had we received any complaint concerning him at that time, we would have immediately launched an investigation and if necessary suspended him from duty whilst that investigation was underway."
Clare Sambrook, novelist, journalist, won both the Paul Foot Award and the Bevins Prize for outstanding investigative journalism in 2010. Clare is a Co-Editor of OurKingdom and co-founder of End Child Detention Now. Her exposé of corruption in the Olympics, The Great Olympic Swindle (co-author Andrew Jennings), was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2000.
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