Exclusive: Disgraced social worker’s devastation
Disgraced child protection manager Lynda Barnes says her life is in tatters after being named in a hard-hitting court ruling criticising council chiefs in Bath.
Bath and North East Somerset Council has apologised after employing Mrs Barnes as a social services team leader despite knowing she had a conviction for conspiracy to murder.
Mrs Barnes quit her job with the council in March ahead of a disciplinary hearing triggered by revelations at a long-running family court case over the care of three children in which she was involved.
One of her staff raised the alarm to senior council officials after the 55-year-old allegedly suggested she should consider lying in court during the proceedings.
The council admits it should never have employed her – but has insisted that it had been misled by the experienced social worker about the background to her conviction in 1995.
A detailed and potentially explosive pair of rulings from the judge in the family proceedings heavily criticised both her and the council.
Mrs Barnes, who is now reconciled with husband Rodney after plotting to hire a hitman to kill him in 1993, fought in vain to keep her name out of Judge Paul Barclay’s written judgements.
His rulings, published this week in a move exclusively revealed on the Chronicle’s website www.thisisbath.co.uk, accuse Mrs Barnes of failing to tell the truth under oath, and of manufacturing evidence.
He also has harsh words for B&NES, which has now reviewed all the cases in which Mrs Barnes was significantly involved during her three-year career with the authority, and launched extensive new checks into the backgrounds of all 125 of its social care staff.
Last night, Mrs Barnes’s solicitor John Weatherall issued a statement on her behalf, saying that her life had been “devastated” and that his client had never “deliberately misled anyone.”
It said: “Mrs Barnes always endeavoured to be a supportive and professional team leader with Bath and North East Somerset Council. “She denies that she ever told anyone to lie in court or manufactured evidence. Her life and health have been devastated by Judge Barclay’s conclusions about her. Mrs Barnes’ previous conviction was never a secret and was widely known amongst professionals prior to the particular case heard by Judge Barclay.
“The events leading to her conviction occurred during a period of great trauma in her life. She sought counselling and was reconciled with her husband.”
Mr Weatherall said his client had disclosed her conviction to the regulatory body the General Social Care Council and gave permission for her criminal file to be disclosed.
“She never deliberately misled anyone.”
Mrs Barnes, who was given a two-year suspended sentence in 1995, says she does not intend to return to social work.
The judge took the unusual step of allowing reporting of the family proceedings case, saying there had been “very serious failings indeed, both by Mrs Barnes and by the local authority” and that “the arguments for publicity in this case are overwhelming.”
He said the public “have a right to know…what has been done in the name of Bath and North East Somerset in this case.”
He added: “This publicity is essential in the extraordinary background of this case, which is quite unique in my experience.
“There may well indeed be lessons to be learned for the future. Bath and North East Somerset say they have already learnt those lessons, or they are in the process of learning them.”
Publication of Judge Barclay’s judgement, given in December last year, was delayed due to an Appeal Court bid by Mrs Barnes earlier this week to overturn his findings and keep her name out of the public domain.
At that hearing, Mrs Barnes said she had suffered a stroke and had cancelled her registration as a social worker. She asked what purpose could be served by disclosing her name, given her fragile health and the fact she has “no intention or ability to go back to social work”.
In a halting voice and clearly distressed, Mrs Barnes told Lord Justice Wall and Lord Justice Thorpe that she was now in the middle of selling her home due to her parlous financial state.
But Lord Justice Wall said there was an overwhelming “public interest that such matters should be in the public domain” which outweighed Mrs Barnes’ privacy rights.
He added it was also vital that, if any other individuals had been affected by Mrs Barnes’ conduct, “they should have an opportunity of bringing it to the local authority’s attention”.