Tribunal opens into dismissal of manager from Norfolk County Council’s troubled children’s services

Norfolk County Council's County Hall in Martineau Lane, Norwich.

Norfolk County Council's County Hall in Martineau Lane, Norwich. - Credit: Archant

A tribunal into the dismissal of a former team manager at Norfolk County Council's children's services department has heard evidence from a man who reviewed circumstances surrounding his suspension.

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

•Above is a timeline of the difficulties faced by Norfolk children's services and how they've been reported in the EDP.

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.

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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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This morning 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 was a misrepresentation.

Mr Evans said: 'We had a number of occasions where Mr Barron, in my view, misrepresented the views of a paediatrician.'

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, and believed it was 'not unreasonable' for him to attribute the comments to Mr Barron, but Ms Davenport said there was nothing 'in writing' in which Mr Barron had quantified the force used.

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.

Ms Davenport said that the decision was therefore 'not based on any representations that Mr Barron may have made'.

Mr Evans responded that the decision had been made 'in the best interests of the child to avoid disruption'.

Ms Davenport questioned why no one at the meetings had queried Mr Barron's assertion that there was 'excessive force' used, when those present had access to the medical report of the incident which contradicted his evidence.

'If Mr Barron is saying that excessive force was used, why did none of the medical professionals say, 'Hey, that is not what it says in the medical report'?' she asked.

Ms Davenport said Mr Evans had not asked anyone about Mr Barron's comments in the meetings, concluding that his 'whole case is based on assumptions from documents'.

Mr Evans responded 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 because there was opportunity on a number of occasions for Mr Barron to challenge the differences,' he said.

The tribunal, presided over by Judge Jean Laidler, is expected to hear evidence from Mr Barron this afternoon. A conclusion is expected tomorrow.

Norfolk County Council's children's services have been rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted twice in the last three years.

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