Tribunal concludes into dismissal of former team leader at children’s services department

Peter Barron leaving Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal Court.

Peter Barron leaving Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal Court. - Credit: Gregg Brown

The tribunal of a former team manager at Norfolk County Council's children's services has concluded with submissions from both parties.

Peter Barron was suspended in December 2014, and following an independent investigation and disciplinary hearing, he was dismissed in May 2015.

At a tribunal in Bury St Edmunds yesterday he 'categorically' denied claims that he misrepresented evidence in the case of an injured child.

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 found to contradict a medical report and a letter from a consultant paediatrician.

Sally Davenport, representing Mr Barron, said during her submission: 'At the core of my case is the failure of the investigation, particularly the failure to interview any witnesses which may have given evidence as to what was actually said.'

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She said there were 'serious weaknesses in the documentary evidence', but said it was 'even more important to ascertain what was actually said' as the misrepresentation was said to have been made orally.

Ms Davenport added there had been a 'breach of trust and confidence' in the department's suspension of Mr Barron.

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'To suspend him was very definitely a knee-jerk reaction, there was no need for it and we all know the consequences that followed from that,' she said.

Representing the respondent, Andrew Brett suggested that the 'issue of trust' had pervaded the 'whole history of the case', as well as being referred to in letters from an outcomes meeting held before Mr Barron was suspended.

He added that the children's services department had been under 'tremendous scrutiny' at the time of the disciplinary hearings surrounding the case.

During the three-day tribunal evidence was given by Don Evans, assistant director of performance and challenge in Norfolk County Council's children's services department, who was responsible for reviewing evidence around the incident in 2010 to decide whether Mr Barron had made a misrepresentation.

Mr Evans said he considered Mr Barron's comments to be 'at odds' with the medical report and paediatricians' evidence, adding: 'We are not talking about a slight misunderstanding.'

Mr Barron himself also gave evidence, saying he dispute the accuracy of minutes made during meetings about the case between December 2010 and March 2011, at which it was claimed he had misrepresented evidence.

He said: 'There were concerns, but I'm categorically sure I didn't say that the paediatrician used the term 'considerable force'.'

Judge Jean Laidler, who is presiding over the case, has retired to consider her conclusion but was unable to say when a result could be expected.

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