A FORMER prison officer who was sacked after his wife accused him of sexual assault is suing his bosses for unfair dismissal.

John Palfreman, who was a guard at Low Moss Prison in Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, failed to tell the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) about his arrest and the charges against him for a week after being released on bail.

All of the charges against him were eventually dropped but the SPS dismissed him as he did not report the arrest "without delay", as stated in the service's employment policy.

Mr Palfreman's wife, Christine, who suffered from alcohol ­addiction and depression, died two months ago.

Mr Palfreman, of Gourock, also a recovering alcoholic, claims he knew he had to report his arrest, but was unaware of the timescale in which he had to do it.

He was off work for the week after his release on bail and decided to wait and tell prison governor Michael Stoney when he returned. He told an employment tribunal: "I didn't have any of the paperwork telling me when it had to be reported. These were very, very serious allegations against me and I wanted to speak to the governor face-to-face. I had that fixed in my mind."

Solicitor Pamela Keys, acting for the SPS, asked Mr Palfreman if he sought any advice, either from the SPS or his trade union, about reporting the charges. He replied: "No". She also suggested he could have gone to the prison to see the governor at any point during the week. Mr Palfreman, who has worked for the SPS for 16 years, replied that he was worried about gossip spreading if he turned up to his workplace while he was off on annual leave.

The tribunal heard Mr Palfreman was arrested on April 12 last year and released from custody three days later after appearing at Paisley Sheriff Court.

He returned to work on April 22 and asked to see the governor straight away, only to be told Mr Stoney already wanted to see him.

Ken McGuire, Mr Palfreman's lawyer, said in his closing submissions that "things just passed in a blur" for his client at that stage.

Mr McGuire added: "He didn't really get the opportunity to make the first strike, and once the governor informed him he knew what had happened it was too late."

The lawyer added that the SPS should have taken account of his client's unblemished record, the fact he was on leave after his arrest and that he was not aware of when he had to report such things. He also said the SPS was made aware of his arrest early on.

Mr McGuire said: "Taking all of these mitigating factors into account, no reasonable employer would have decided to dismiss."

Ms Keys argued there were significant risks resulting from Mr Palfreman's failure to report his arrest. She said: "SPS expects its employees to exhibit a higher degree of conduct than maybe would be expected in other areas of employment. These people are entrusted with the secure accommodation of offenders and therefore SPS has to have trust they will comply with the rules."

The tribunal heard that Mr Palfreman's disciplinary hearing also looked at a period of unauthorised absence before his arrest.

The tribunal continues.