A PRISON officer who was sacked for allegedly grabbing the neck of an inmate who was demanding second dinner helpings has won his case for unfair dismissal.

Ross Callachan, a former guard at HMP Glenochil in Clackmannanshire, has been awarded almost £7,000 by an employment tribunal after bosses accused him of seizing the prisoner when 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, of Kinross, claimed the inmate became increasingly aggressive and he was worried he might be assaulted so took the decision to physically remove him from the area.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) claimed Mr Callachan used excessive force, but employment judge Mary Kearns found in favour of the 35-year-old and ordered his re-engagement as a prison officer at HMP Perth.

Judge Kearns also awarded him £6,989.

In a written judgment on the case, she said: "At the risk of stating the obvious, a prison is a potentially dangerous working environment.

"Prison officers are sometimes attacked by prisoners. They sometimes need to take action to protect themselves and others in threatening situations.

"SPS's expert was very clear in his expert testimony to the investigation and disciplinary hearing that the decision to use force under the the Use of Force Policy lies solely with the individual officer and is based on his perception of the danger at that time."

The judge added: "The SPS did not have reasonable grounds for its belief in Mr Callachan's misconduct and they misapplied their own policy. In these circumstances we find that Mr Callachan's dismissal was unfair."

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

The prisoner 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 guard said the inmate was shouting and swearing at him and he gave several more warnings before putting his hand up and connecting with the man.

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. He received no injuries and later admitted to being aggressive towards Mr Callachan and apologised for his behaviour.

Despite this, prison governor Nigel Ironside took the decision to sack Mr Callachan in June last year, claiming he had used excessive force and had not used the proper techniques expected of prison officers.

CCTV footage showed the incident, but the camera angle meant it was unclear what exactly happened.

The prison guard's appeal against the decision was also rejected by the SPS.

Mr Callachan said he was "devastated" when he was dismissed, adding: "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."

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said: "We do not comment on individual members of staff."