Former Norfolk children’s services team leader disputes claims of evidence misrepresentation
- Credit: Gregg Brown
A former team manager at Norfolk County Council's children's services department has 'categorically' denied that he misrepresented evidence in a case.
Peter Barron was suspended in December 2014, and following an independent investigation and disciplinary hearing, he was dismissed in May 2015.
Mr Barron had recommended that a four-year-old be removed from their foster carer in 2010 after nursery workers spotted bruising on his leg. However evidence from Mr Barron, which stated 'excessive force' may have been responsible for the injuries, was later called into question.
A medical report and a letter from a consultant paediatrician, who said he saw 'no clear evidence' that 'excessive force' had been used, contradicted his report.
An employment tribunal is underway in Bury St Edmunds to assess whether Mr Barron's dismissal was justified.
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Evidence was given by Don Evans, assistant director of performance and challenge in Norfolk County Council's children's services department.
He was responsible for reconsidering evidence around the incident in December 2010 to determine whether Mr Barron's evidence constituted a misrepresentation.
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He said: 'We had a number of occasions where Mr Barron, in my view, misrepresented the views of a paediatrician.'
Mr Evans said that he had considered Mr Barron's comments to be 'at odds with the medical report' and doctors' evidence.
'We were not talking about a slight misunderstanding, because the two different positions were so far apart and there was opportunity on a number of occasions for Mr Barron to challenge the differences,' he said.
Representing Mr Barron, Sally Davenport questioned Mr Evans about meetings held in December 2010 and February 2011, after which the decision to remove the child from their foster carer was made.
Mr Evans said it was during the second of these meetings, at which Mr Barron was present, that the discussion of 'excessive force' was first raised.
He said 'excessive force' had not been talked about during the first meeting, which Mr Barron did not attend.
However, Mr Evans later said that the decision to remove the child from their foster carer had been made at the first meeting – at which Mr Barron was not present and 'no discussion' of 'excessive force' took place.
Giving evidence, Mr Barron said he had held conversations with one of the paediatricians involved in the incident.
But he disputed the accuracy of minutes taken during the meetings he attended in 2011, in which it was claimed he misrepresented the doctors' evidence.
'We had significant injuries here. There were concerns, but I'm categorically sure I didn't say that the paediatrician used the term 'considerable force',' he said.
'In the meetings there was a lot of professional debate about the level of force. Not at any time did anyone say that the paediatricians said the force was excessive.'
Mr Barron said he gave a verbal report to the local authority designated officer (LADO) in charge of the case soon after speaking to the paediatrician, and followed this up with an email, but said he had not used the term 'excessive force' in this written account.
Representing the respondent, Andrew Brett asked Mr Barron if he thought he was a 'key player' in the case.
Mr Barron said that he was 'part of the process', adding: 'I'm certainly a significant player, but not the key player.'
He estimated he had been interviewed by around 10 people about the case, including Ian Parker, who conducted an independent review into the treatment of Norfolk's foster carers.
Asked by Mr Brett is he felt 'trust and confidence' between him and the council had gone, Mr Barron said: 'I feel that the actions of some people involved, the way the investigation was conducted and the lines of inquiry it took were prejudiced, and that affects my feelings of the person who conducted it.'
The tribunal, presided over by Judge Jean Laidler, is due to conclude today.