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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Council condemned over social worker's 'wholly inappropriate' probe into baby abuse claims

Written by Brian Farmer

Council bosses have come under fire from a family court judge who said a social worker investigating a baby-abuse allegation had gathered evidence in a "wholly inappropriate" way.

Judge Thomas Greensmith said social services staff had investigated after a two-month-old girl suffered a broken collarbone and doctors suggested that she might have been injured by her mother or father.

The judge said the social worker had interviewed the baby's mother and grandmother during a home visit - and had separately interviewed the baby's four-year-old half-sister.

He said it was "difficult to overstate" how "unprofessionally prepared" the social worker's notes of the meeting with the baby's mother and grandmother were - and he said the four-year-old half-sister had not been interviewed in a "professional manner".

Judge Greensmith has outlined concerns in a written ruling on the case published following a private family court hearing in Liverpool during the summer.

He said the children could not be identified in media reports, and he has not named the council involved or the social worker.

Council bosses had asked him to make findings about the cause of the baby's injury - he had concluded that she had been hurt accidentally.

Social services bosses had agreed that the baby and her half-sister could be cared for at home.

But the judge said both children had been temporarily taken from home, and placed in the care of a relative for some months, pending the outcome of investigations.

Judge Greensmith said the social worker had "largely made up" her "formal notes" about two weeks after her meetings with the mother and grandmother, and the four-year-old half-sister.

There had been a dispute about what was said during the meeting with the mother and grandmother, but the social worker's contemporaneous handwritten notes had not been produced until the court hearing was under way.

"The contemporaneous notes comprised seven pages of handwritten material," said Judge Greensmith in his ruling.

"It is difficult to overstate how unprofessionally prepared these notes were.

"They were largely undated, they failed accurately to recall who was present, much of the handwriting is illegible, they were in large part disjointed and had to be translated by [the social worker]."

Judge Greensmith said the social worker's notes of her meeting the with four-year-old half-sister were "as illegible and disjointed as the other notes".

He said the child had not been interviewed in a "professional manner", and guidelines covering the interviewing of children had not been followed.

The social worker said she had been trained in how to interview children.

But Judge Greensmith said, if the social worker had been properly trained, he had "grave reservations as to the quality and effectiveness of that training".

"The gathering and recording of evidence by the social worker was, in my view, wholly inappropriate," the judge added.

"The local authority was investigating an allegation of serious child abuse where it was thought possible that an eight-week-old baby had been seriously injured by one or other of the parents.

"In discharging its duties, the local authority could and should, in my view, have kept proper notes in a professional way which would have served as a coherent, contemporaneous record and this did not happen."

Judge Greensmith said there may be "significant areas for improvement" in the training the council gave social workers.

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