A PRISON officer who was sacked for allegedly grabbing the neck of an inmate who was demanding second helpings of dinner is suing bosses for unfair dismissal.

Ross Callachan, a former guard at HMP Glenochil in Clackmannanshire, is accused of seizing the prisoner after he became aggressive in the middle of food service.

The inmate, named only as X, was trying to claim the meal of another prisoner but had been told to wait until the end so guards could ensure everyone who wanted dinner received it.

Mr Callachan, who denies grabbing the prisoner's neck and claims he did not do anything wrong, said X became increasingly aggressive and he was worried he might be assaulted so took the decision to physically remove him from the area.

The 35-year-old, of Kinross, told an employment tribunal in Glasgow that he was "devastated" when he was later sacked by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) in June last year over his handling of the incident.

He said: "I had given the SPS nine years' service and never once was my judgment called into question, never once was there any hint that the way I dealt with things was inappropriate."

The tribunal heard that meal times were split into two sittings to accommodate the high number of inmates in that section of the jail.

Prisoner X had been given his dinner in the first sitting but tried to claim the meal of another inmate who did not want his food in the second sitting.

Mr Callachan, who spent 10 years in the army prior to joining SPS, said: "I told him that was not a problem but I would get it at the end once all the prisoners had been fed.

"He constantly badgered and asked, his voice getting louder every time, I told him that if he was patient he would receive the meal.

"He was getting increasingly higher and higher in his manner. He then walks round, comes to my right hand side, puts his plate on the hotplate and grabs hold of the bars on the serving area."

The ex-guard, who now works as a transport manager for a seafood company, said the inmate was shouting and swearing at him and he gave several more warnings before putting his hand up and connecting with X's shoulder.

He added: "I knew by his mannerisms and the way he was holding on that he was not going to move.

"Because of everything that was going on, I made the split second decision to remove him from the section."

The prisoner was then restrained on the floor of a nearby office.

Advocate Colin Edward, representing Mr Callachan, asked him why he wanted the inmate removed and he replied: "He was far too close and I felt uncomfortable about the possibility of being assaulted."

Asked why he did not walk away and remove himself from the situation, Mr Callachan said: "Because of how aggressive he had been. I was also thinking I still have a full section open, finishing off their meals, and there were numerous potential weapons there like the hotplate and utensils from dinner."

Mr Edwards asked him if he accepted that he used excessive force and he replied "no".

Employment judge Mary Kearns - who saw CCTV of the incident - heard that despite the inmate receiving no injuries in the incident, prison governor Nigel Ironside took the decision to sack Mr Callachan, claiming he had used excessive force and had not used the proper techniques expected of prison officers.

SPS solicitor Robin Turnbull put it to Mr Callachan that he did not need to take the course of action he did. The guard replied: "I felt I did".

Mr Turnbull added that there were other options available to him, asking: "Would you accept that using physical force was not strictly necessary in that situation?"

Mr Callachan replied: "There were other options open to me, however I chose the option with the least amount of variables."

The tribunal earlier heard from Allister Purdie, the governor of HMP Cornton Vale, who oversaw Mr Callachan's appeal on behalf of SPS.

Mr Purdie said the action taken by Mr Callachan was "not proportionate", adding: "The option he chose was not the option that a trained, professional prison officer would have taken."

A judgment will be issued in the case at a later date.