Humberside

North East Lincolnshire Council social workers criticised by judge

Three council social workers have been criticised for "bias" by a judge asked to decide the future of a three-year-old boy whose mother has died.

Judge Simon Jack was deciding whether the boy should be placed for adoption or allowed to live with his grandparents.

He said North East Lincolnshire Council witnesses had been "visibly biased" and its case "severely undermined".

The council said the case highlighted "complexities and difficult decisions".

Judge Jack was sitting at Hull Family Court in June, but his ruling was published on Tuesday.

'Very unfortunate'

He said it was accepted that the boy, known only as J, could not live with his father.

But he said the council had wanted him placed for adoption and had "effectively ruled out" both sets of grandparents.

"I have never, in over 10 years of hearing care cases, taken the view, as I did in this case, that the local authority's witnesses were visibly biased in their attempts to support the local authority's case," he said.

"It is very unfortunate and I hope I shall never see that again."

The judge concluded the boy should live with one set of grandparents.

He was critical of the evidence given by social workers Neil Swaby, Rachel Olley and Peter Nelson.

He said their concerns "appeared to be grossly overstated in order to try and achieve their ends".

Judge Jack said: "I heard evidence over two days.

"During the course of that evidence the local authority's case was severely undermined."

'Totally discredited'

He said Mr Swaby had been "very begrudging indeed in his evidence" and "was intent on saying only things which supported the local authority's case".

The judge said: "I then heard evidence from Rachel Olley, whose evidence was totally discredited in my view.

"Again I had the very strong impression that the local authority witnesses were intent on playing up any factors which were unfavourable to the grandparents and playing down any factors which might be favourable."

The judge said some of Mr Nelson's evidence "smacks to me of the same bias".

He said Mr Nelson had raised issues which were "not serious".

In a statement, the council said: "This case illustrates the complexities and difficult decisions that have to be made while striving to act in the best interests of children.''

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