A FORMER Vale prison officer who won a landmark employment tribunal has criticised the Prison Service for not accepting an appeal upholding the decision.

Carol Saunders, aged 41, resigned from her post at Long Lartin Prison, South Littleton last December. Weeks earlier a tribunal panel upheld her argument against the Prison Service's discriminatory practice of forcing female officers to rub down search male inmates. Male officers are not expected to conduct the same duties in female prisons.

The Prison Service's appeal against the decision was rejected in London by Judge McMullen QC two weeks ago. The service now plans to seek an oral hearing before a judge, in a second attempt to get the tribunal conclusion overturned.

Mrs Saunders said: "The Prison Service's plans to seek an oral hearing make me very angry. I wonder whether they are just wasting time because as long as they are doing something like this, they are not doing anything to help the staff."

The prison officer of 17 years standing claims she was forced to resigned when she was put on restricted duties, after returning to work following her tribunal success. She has also accused prison management of failing to inform staff of the fallout of her case, or implementing any changes.

Mrs Saunders added: "It (the oral hearing application) is just more delays again, which is annoying and frustrating. But I've just got to get on with it and wait for the Prison Service to hold their hands up and admit they are wrong. When that will be God only knows."

Prison Service spokesman Darcy Mitchell confirmed the authority had until March 11 to seek an oral hearing, after their written application was rejected.