Surrey social services worker suspended for a year

A social services employee who failed to tell his manager a colleague had been having sex with an underage girl has been suspended for a year.

South African national Daniel Bester worked for social services at Surrey County Council when his colleague Thomas Ritzler started having sexual relationships with a vulnerable 14-year-old girl, a General Social Care Council committee heard.

Even though Mr Bester became aware of the relationship in late June 2008, he failed to disclose it to his manager and only confirmed the relationship after he was asked about it.

SCC then took disciplinary action against Mr Bester, at the end of which he was dismissed from the council.

During the hearing, the South African claimed he had been suffering from anxiety and had been traumatised after a car crash in 2007, and that his judgement had been impaired by that and pressures of being an immigrant.

Mr Bester had emigrated from South Africa at the beginning of 2007 and struggled to find a job and accommodation for several months.

He befriended Ritzler, a German national, and colleague at SCC social services department. The two men used to play basketball at Priory Park, in Reigate in their spare time, where Ritzler met the 14-year-old.

Ritzler was jailed in November 2008 for two years and four months.

Chairman of the committee Geoff Melling said: “The committee took into account the fact that the registrant’s failure to disclose his knowledge of the abuse was a gross lapse of judgement but was nonetheless a single incident.”

“In deciding that suspension was an appropriate sanction, the committee considered all the available material and was satisfied that the registrant had acknowledged his failure to disclose and he was unlikely to repeat it.

“The registrant’s previous good record was taken into account, as was the fact that he himself had had no responsibility for, or involvement in, the abuse of the child.”