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Social worker could be struck off after faking evidence in child case

Posted on 31/10/2017 by


Disciplinary panel will judge whether Bristol social worker can continue to practise after foster case

A social worker has appeared before a professional disciplinary panel after she was found by a judge to have fabricated evidence to bolster the case for removing a child from the mother’s care and then lied in court about having done so.

Linda Fraser, who works for Bristol city council, could be struck off if the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) concludes that her fitness to practise has been impaired by her conduct.

But the hearing was adjourned after five days of evidence last week and will not reconvene until March. No reason was given for the delay.

Fraser, a senior social worker, was found by a judge earlier this year to have improperly altered records concerning children in care proceedings – a case in which a mother stood to lose her two children into foster care.

At the HCPC hearing, Fraser admitted to twice editing the children’s records after case notes had been finalised by the family’s social worker.

In the original child protection case, held in Bristol, the district judge Julie Exton found that Fraser had added new information to the case notes in 2015 to “bolster” the evidence against the mother.

In an appeal after that case, Fraser said that she could not remember changing the records and blamed stress and mental health problems. But the appeal court found that the trial judge had been entitled to conclude that Fraser’s powers of recall had not been affected.

Speaking to the HCPC panel, Fraser’s line manager, Ann Farmer, disputed that Fraser’s alterations would have made a significant difference to the outcome for the children.

At the HCPC hearing, Fraser denied suggesting to a court that it was the children’s social worker who had edited their case notes rather than herself. She admitted to creating a log of a telephone call eight months after it was purported to have taken place, and to failing to give the children’s mother the required notice of her intention to seek an expert’s advice on foster placements.

But she denied telling the expert that the mother had been notified, or that she was reckless as to whether that information had in fact been given to the mother.

She also denied that she had acted dishonestly, that her actions amounted to misconduct and that her fitness to practise was impaired.

Though Fraser is not currently employed in a family-facing role, a central question posed by the HCPC related to how much trust a court could realistically have in her integrity, should she be exonerated by the HCPC and subsequently be called to give evidence in a child protection case. “What risks arise?” was a question posed by the HCPC legal officer to Fraser’s former manager Ann Farmer.

“I agree that could be a consideration, yes,” said Farmer.

Fraser’s own questioning of Farmer and the family’s social worker, known only as Social Worker A, focused on whether her admitted actions had been dishonest, amounted to misconduct, and whether her fitness to practise in future had been impaired.

The conduct of the HCPC disciplinary hearing raised questions about the degree of transparency that can be expected in its “fitness to practice” hearings. While they are normally held in public, Fraser requested that all witness evidence should be heard in private. 

Eventually the panel decided to treat her as a vulnerable witness, meaning that she could give her own evidence in private, but said that it would hear the only other witness in public.

Fraser also asked that the Guardian be barred from live tweeting proceedings on the grounds that other witnesses’ evidence could be tainted if they read an account of the case. After the HCPC was advised that it did not have the power to require live tweeting to stop, it was allowed to continue.

The HCPC disciplinary panel will reconvene on 5 March 2018 to hear the remainder of the case.

Source: TheGuardian