Linda Fraser, who works for Bristol city council, could be struck off if the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) concludes that her fitness to practise has been impaired by her conduct.
Fraser, a senior social worker, was found by a judge in March 2016 to have improperly altered records concerning children in care proceedings – a case in which a mother stood to lose her two children into foster care.
Which should be treated as fraud. But this is the public sector, where they do things rather differently.
At the HCPC hearing, Fraser admitted to twice editing the children’s records after case notes had been finalised by the family’s social worker.
In the original child protection case, held in Bristol, the district judge Julie Exton found that Fraser had added new information to the case notes in 2015 to “bolster” the evidence against the mother.
And when you’ve been accused of falsifying records, well, what’s a social worker to do but plead ‘Dunno, your honour, but see, I’m mad, me…’
In an appeal after that case, Fraser said that she could not remember changing the records and blamed stress and mental health problems. But the appeal court found that the trial judge had been entitled to conclude that Fraser’s powers of recall had not been affected.
Thank goodness for that!
Though Fraser is not currently employed in a family-facing role, a central question posed by the HCPC related to how much trust a court could realistically have in her integrity, should she be exonerated by the HCPC and subsequently be called to give evidence in a child protection case.
Is it a number less than zero? Yes, I think it might be.
Now, you’d think that the authorities would come down like a ton of bricks and make an example of her. If you were from another world, that is. But you’ll not be terribly surprised to find she’s a victim entitled to protection, will you, reader?
The conduct of the HCPC disciplinary hearing raised questions about the degree of transparency that can be expected in its “fitness to practice” hearings.
While they are normally held in public, Fraser requested that all witness evidence should be heard in private.
Eventually the panel decided to treat her as a vulnerable witness, meaning that she could give her own evidence in private, but said that it would hear the other witnesses in public.
Fraser also asked that the Guardian be barred from live tweeting proceedings on the grounds that other witnesses’ evidence could be tainted if they read an account of the case. After the HCPC was advised that it did not have the power to require live tweeting to stop, it was allowed to continue.
The HCPC disciplinary panel will reconvene on 5 March 2018 to hear the remainder of the case.
Yes, that’s right, March. All the while, she goes on sucking greedily at the public teat.
But the hearing was adjourned after five days of evidence last week and will not reconvene until March. No reason was given for the delay.
They should have simply said ‘We’re incompetent’. Everyone would understand.