MORE than €600,000 has been paid out to prison officers and criminals injured in the Irish prison system during the past year.

A total of €470,278 was paid out to employees who were hurt on duty in the period since June 2008, figures from the Irish Prison Service (IPS) have shown. The biggest settlement was €201,000 paid out to a prison officer who was hurt while trying to restrain a violent inmate.

For criminals incarcerated in Irish prisons, the largest single settlement was one of €25,000 for a prisoner who suffered "exposure to TB". Sources said the payment was made after the criminal was forced to share a cell with another person infected with tuberculosis. In the close confines of a cell, TB could rapidly spread, although the IPS declined to say whether the inmate who was compensated had contracted the disease.

A total of 30 people were paid compensation over the past 12 months, with damages ranging from just €474 to €201,000. Awards to prison officers injured whilst at work were far higher than those paid out to criminals.

A second employee was also paid out on foot of injuries sustained whilst restraining a prisoner and received €50,000 in compensation. Four officers received compensation after slipping on wet floors or other uneven surfaces, with payouts ranging from €23,799 to €37,555. Three other prison officers made claims as a result of what are known as "mechanical injuries" where they were hit by doors or barriers, or otherwise hurt. Claims in that category were as high as €37,555.

A total of 11 prisoners received compensation after suffering injuries while serving sentences. The second largest related to an assault in which a prisoner was attacked by another inmate; he was awarded €15,000 in damages.

A statement said: "As all claims settled through negotiation are generally done so on the basis of confidentiality, it is not proposed to release the names of the individual claimants.

"Details regarding the nature of claims are kept at a minimum so as not to identify a claimant to his/her peers."

A total of seven settlements also had to be made with injured members of the public. Five of the seven claims related to road-traffic accidents where vehicles were hit by prison vans driving to and from court appearances. One member of the public received €15,000 after slipping and falling while visiting a prison.