Social workers lied on under oath and doctored a report as part of an attempted ‘cover-up’ which favoured five children being taken away from their parents.
Judge Mark Horton said there had been a ‘deliberate and calculated’ alteration to the dossier and changes had been made by a social worker and a team manager.
Alterations of the report, which was an assessment of the children’s parents, had completely changed its tenor and improved the case for removing the children from their parents.
In a family court hearing in Portsmouth, Judge Horton said: ‘It is exceptional to find a case in which there has been deliberate and calculated alteration of a report prepared by one social worker in order to make that assessment seem less favourable, by another social worker and the team manager; the withholding of the original report when it was ordered to be disclosed and the parties to the alterations lying on oath one of them twice, in order to try to cover up the existence of the original report.’
The original report of the parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had contained ‘positives and negatives’ and had been balanced.
Proceedings started more than two years ago and the children, aged between three and 16, are currently living with foster parents as part of an interim agreement.
Social workers for Hampshire County Council wanted them to stay in foster care but their parents wanted them returned to their care.
But despite Judge Horton saying the children should stay within the care of the council and approving fostering plans put forward by staff, he was critical of the way the case had been handled.
He said: ‘A final decision is long overdue,’ said Judge Horton.
‘The reasons for the delay have been almost exclusively, the actions of employees of the applicant local authority.’
He went on to say that he had never came across a case like this before.
He said given the ‘enormity’ of what staff had done and the fact ‘they still work as social workers’ it was right that they should be named so that members of the public were aware of ‘their shortcomings in this case’.
The judge indicated that some staff had left Hampshire council and moved on to other jobs since the case involving the five children had started.
Social worker Sarah Walker Smart had ‘lied twice to me on oath’, said the judge.
He said he had been told that she had been promoted to a ‘team manager’ in Hampshire council.
Kim Goode had been Sarah Walker Smart’s manager and ‘was the person who initiated the wholesale alteration of the original report and who attempted to keep the truth from the parties and me’, said the judge.
He said she had gone on to become ‘district manager for the Isle of Wight’.
Lisa Humphreys had been Kim Goode’s manager, said the judge.
‘Her evidence was deeply unimpressive,’ he added.
‘She made a ‘hollow’ apology to the parents during her evidence; she regarded a social worker lying on oath as ‘foolish’ and she failed to accept any personal responsibility for what had gone on under her management.’
He said she had gone on to become assistant director of children’s social care with Lambeth Borough Council.
Judge Horton said he had concluded that at one stage the children had been illegally removed from their parents’ care – and that a ‘fair parenting assessment’ had not been carried out.
He said a number of concerns had been raised about the way the children were being looked after by their parents.
The judge said the parents loved their children – and their children loved them.
But despite the quality of those relationships, the parents had ‘difficulty parenting the children to the required minimum standard’, he said.
The court heard that both parents had experienced ‘very difficult childhoods’, had an underlying ‘chronic’ mistrust of professionals and did not want to ‘inflict on their children the experiences they themselves had as children’, which had led them to failing to provide effective boundaries for the children, according to the judge.
He said this then led to appalling neglect of the older children’s educational, emotional and social development and neglect of all of the children’s health needs.
– Daily Mail