A judge has criticised an independent social worker for failing to properly fulfil the role of expert witness in a care proceedings case.
Judge Greene took the unusual step of instructing an independent social worker to give evidence, during a hearing concerning the care of five children, all from the same mother (referred to as D), but fathered by two men, known as G and E.
While D was not actively pursuing care of her children, both of the fathers had put themselves forward to care for their respective children.
Children at risk
In an earlier hearing with a different judge, the children remained in D’s care only on the condition that an injunction was made to keep G away, so great was the risk he was deemed to pose to the children and their mother. However, E, was allowed contact with the children.
This was later changed to supervised contact following concerns E was failing to manage the children’s behaviour, as well as physically chastising them.
Both the local authority social worker and the children’s guardian witnessed the contact sessions. The social worker said the contact had been “chaotic” while the children’s guardian, Judge Greene said, described what she had witnessed as “horrifying”.
“She said that it was appalling and some of the worst contact she has ever seen. That is a very extreme thing for a guardian to say and she is a very experienced guardian,” Judge Greene told the court.
However the independent social worker, in clear conflict with these reports, said the contact he observed was “positive and enjoyable”.
While the judge conceded children do not always behave the same and some allowance must be made for good days and bad days, he said it became clear when considering the independent social worker’s answers to questions in cross-examination that his report had been based very much on E’s own self-reporting.
“There seemed to be no attempt to go behind that. What E said to him seemed to be taken at face value and the observations were not analysed or put into the context of the very concerning background.
“It was concerning that he was not even sure which of the documents he had read,” Judge Greene said.
“I sadly conclude that the report and evidence from [the independent social worker] did not properly fulfil the role of an expert witness.”
The judge ordered all five children to be taken into foster care following G breaching his injunction and becoming involved in several violent altercations with D, one of which resulted in her fracturing her eye socket.
He recommended the younger two should be placed for adoption and the older three cared for in longer term foster care without contact with their father.