A social worker who was found guilty of misconduct after circulating offensive e-mails, including one about convicted sex offender Gary Glitter, has successfully appealed against the decision being on public record.
Stephen Bunce was a practice manager responsible for a team of eight children’s social workers at Devon Council when he forwarded six e-mails, some of which contained “inappropriate” images of children.
One, called “Anything to declare sir?”, showed convicted sex offender Paul Gadd, known by his stage name Gary Glitter, carrying a shopping bag apparently containing a child through customs.
Bunce was disciplined along with two colleagues, Kieron Vosper and Desmond Keegan, for circulating similar e-mails. All three faced conduct proceedings at the GSCC.
However, although Vosper was cleared of misconduct and the GSCC decided not to taken any further action against Desmond, Bunce was admonished for three years.
The GSCC argued that Bunce had occupied a senior position at the council, the e-mails were sent over several months and they included offensive and, in many cases, sexually explicit images.
Bunce appealed to the First-tier (Care Standards) Tribunal on the grounds that he had an unblemished record as a social worker. He regretted sending the e-mails and would not engage in such activity again, he said.
The tribunal concluded he should have been admonished for one year. Judge Laurence Bennett said that, taking into account mitigating factors such as the “e-mail culture” at Devon Council, he could not understand why the GSCC’s conduct committee had imposed a three-year sanction in the first place.
“There is little evidence of the committee’s reasoning as to proportionality,” Bennett said, before allowing the appeal.
He added: “We urge the GSCC to consider its guidance in the light of the modern use of electronic information and that it is likely that a basic search will provide permanent access to the information, irrespective of whether it is still available on the GSCC website.”
Meanwhile, four social workers who were sacked from South Lanarkshire Council, Scotland, for circulating the “Gary Glitter” e-mail have taken their case to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal.
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