Saturday, December 27, 2014

Social worker who falsely accused dad of abusing his six-year-old daughter can STILL look after children

A social worker who falsely accused an innocent father of abusing his six-year-old daughter was allowed to continue working with vulnerable children, it has emerged.

Suzi Smith alleged during a custody battle that she had seen Jonathan Coupland, 53, attack his child.

The accusation – made while she was ‘really, really angry’ – led to him being handcuffed in front of neighbours, thrown into a cell and banned from seeing his daughter. The Daily Mail revealed the case in April, and since then a disciplinary hearing has found Mrs Smith guilty of misconduct and ruled that her fitness to practise is impaired.

But she was not struck off or suspended. Instead, she was given a three-year caution order, which means she can continue to work with the most vulnerable children.

It has also emerged that she was allowed to continue working as a social worker after making the false accusation.

Last night, Mr Coupland told of his anger that Mrs Smith was permitted to carry on working with children. ‘I am shaking with rage,’ he said. ‘I feel disgusted. It is unbelievable. I was arrested for sexually assaulting the most precious thing in my life. Once you are tarred with that brush, that is it. People where I live think I am a paedophile.

‘But she was working with children again – the one place I would never want her to work again. She even got a promotion. What has she got now? Just a slap on the wrist. No parent or child should go through what my family has gone through. No sanction will ever be strong enough for her.’

Mrs Smith, 53, admitted making the ‘horrific mistake’ and was sacked early last year from her job with Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, which represents children in the family courts.

She was jobless between February and June 2013, but from July 2013 until January 2014, was employed by an agency to work with children for Southampton City Council, where she dealt with issues of child protection and adoption.

The disciplinary hearing at the Health and Care Professions Council, in Kennington, South London, was told she was even given a promotion and did three other stints of agency work as a social worker for local councils until January, when she had to stop working in the run-up to her disciplinary case.

Mr Coupland, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, raised his daughter alone after splitting from her mother. The former painter and decorator has fought a lengthy custody battle.

In January 2012, Mrs Smith made a home visit and apparently clashed with Mr Coupland. Subsequently, she wrote the damning case note while she was ‘really, really angry’. She claimed she had witnessed Mr Coupland stroking his daughter inappropriately – which he has always denied and she now admits did not happen.

Later, Mr Coupland was arrested at home on suspicion of sexual assault and questioned for about ten hours. He claims officers threatened to put his daughter in temporary care before he begged them to place her with his mother.

The following day, Mr Coupland was told there would be no further action. Mrs Smith had been interviewed by officers and retracted what she had previously claimed.

Cafcass, which is funded by the Department of Justice, sacked Mrs Smith and paid Mr Coupland £86,000 in damages.

Mrs Smith’s husband Tim, who represented her at the hearing, said she was overworked when she made her initial record about Mr Coupland touching his daughter. ‘She immediately retracted that with the police,’ he said. ‘At the time of making that record Mrs Smith was in a mood. She was working 14 hours a day and had something like 40 cases on the go. There is no other explanation apart from it was just a horrific mistake.’

Mrs Smith said she had learned from what happened. ‘I have tried to establish a better work-life balance to make sure I am not overworked and that each of my cases get the attention they deserve,’ she told the hearing. She said she was ‘taking time to do less work but more accurate work’.

Mrs Smith has previously apologised to Mr Coupland and said she was put under pressure by police to stick to what she initially wrote that he had done. Panel chairman Stephen Fash said Mrs Smith had ‘overstated’ what she thought she had observed. The panel found she made the false allegation, but did not do so dishonestly.

Lincolnshire Police said officers were ‘duty bound to investigate’ Mrs Smith’s allegation, adding: ‘It transpired that the allegation was not as originally reported to us. The male was released without charge.’

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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