Social worker was unfairly dismissed by Norfolk County Council, employment tribunal decides

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 June 2016

Peter Barron leaving Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal Court.

Peter Barron leaving Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal Court.

An employment tribunal has found Norfolk County Council unfairly dismissed a senior social worker following an “entire process” that was flawed.

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

The case centred on an allegation he “purposefully misrepresented the view of the paediatricians” during an investigation into injuries found on a girl in foster care in December 2010.

He denied the claim during a three-day hearing in Bury St Edmunds in March.

Now, a ruling issued by Judge Jean Laidler has found the independent investigation carried out by Ian Parker, the former chief executive of Middlesbrough Council, was “far from reasonable”.

It said Mr Parker did not interview a number of relevant witnesses, relied on evidence in minutes which he had found were “unclear and of poor quality”, and, when interviewed, Mr Barron “was not informed that he was under investigation nor the charges against him”.

It added: “The investigation was doing exactly what the authorities urge employers not to do, looking for evidence against the claimant [Mr Barron] and not exploring evidence that might exculpate him.”

The judgement also found there was no evidence the council considered whether his suspension was necessary or appropriate, and “there was total disregard of the claimant’s unblemished work record and the four year gap between the events and dismissal”.

Mr Barron said the case has caused “considerable distress and damage to my career”, and added: “I am delighted at the outcome of the hearing. The tribunal has found conclusively that there was no basis for my dismissal.

“I hope the decision will go some way towards rectifying the inaccurate statements and detrimental comments on my character that has been portrayed in various media.”

A council spokesperson said: “It is clear that in this instance the council failed in its role as employer. We therefore accept the tribunal’s findings and will co-operate with the forthcoming hearing which will conclude the case.

“We will also review the findings of the tribunal to establish what lessons the council can learn from this case.”

Attempts to contact Mr Parker, who is conducting a review examining historical complaints related to “the alleged unfair treatment of foster carers” in Norfolk, have been unsuccessful.

The tribunal will now consider the amount of compensation.

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