A social worker jailed for having sex with a service user may have “got away with it” had it not been for DNA evidence, a General Social Care Council conduct committee heard today.
Christopher Bradford, 41, last year became the first social worker to be convicted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which introduced provisions criminalising care workers who have sex with people with mental health problems in their care, when there is a relationship of dependency. He was sentenced to 17 months and placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years at Bournemouth Crown Court in June 2006.
Bradford pleaded guilty to one of the three counts of “sexual activity with a mentally disordered female” after police found traces of his semen on a towel belonging to the client, known as A.
His line manager, Philip Banborough, told the GSCC conduct hearing in London that had it not been for this DNA evidence he may have escaped punishment.
“I find it unbelievable that in this day and age Bradford had unprotected sex with A,” said Banborough.
Bradford, an approved social worker employed by Hampshire Council, formed a relationship with A when she was referred to him for counselling for post-natal depression in September 2004.
Bradofrd took on the case saying he had a particular interest in post-natal depression. Over the next eight months, Bradford visited A often, communicated with her by mobile phone and fostered a dependent relationship, the committee heard.
In June 2005, A made a complaint and Banborough was appointed to investigate. Bradford consistently denied any wrongdoing but after his conviction wrote to the council saying that A “came on to me” and that the relationship had been consensual.
Banborough told the committee that A’s case should have been resolved within six months, but Bradford’s “abuse of trust and power” had meant she had become a long-term meantal health service user. She continues to see a psychiatrist.
He added that Bradford’s prolonged refusal to admit a sexual relationship had been very “harmful” to her.
Sexual Offences Act 2003