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Social worker who showed parents child abuse footage is struck off

HCPC strikes off social worker who showed the parents of a child in foster care footage of “a naked child being beaten and anally raped with a stick"

Published on 3rd April 2018

The HCPC has struck off a social worker who showed parents she was working with an inappropriate video of a child being abused.

During a contact session with the mother and father of a 17-month old child on 11 January 2016, Edna Thomas showed the mother a video clip which the mother described as being of “a naked child being beaten and anally raped with a stick.”

Detective Constable MN told the Health and Care Professions Council Panel that the video clip is classed as an indecent image and possession or distribution of it would amount to a criminal offence.

Miss Thomas started work as a Contact Supervisor with Haringey Council on 1 April 2014.  Her role was to supervise contact sessions between parents and their children who were looked after by the Council.  Prior to this, she had been employed as a Contact Worker with the Council from 8 April 2013. 

On 11 January 2016, Miss Thomas was supervising, separately, contact sessions between the parents of a looked after child, who was in foster care.  During the first session with the father, she allegedly showed him, albeit briefly, a video clip of a child that was being abused by a woman and beaten with a stick.  The father later said that he was horrified by the contents of the video and the fact that Miss Thomas continued to watch it after he had ceased doing so. 

Later, that morning, Miss Thomas allegedly showed the same clip to the mother during her contact session.  These matters were later reported to the child’s social worker on 12 January 2016.  The description given to him of the contents of the clip by the mother were of “a naked child being beaten and anally raped with a stick”.

Meanwhile, on the same morning of the 11 January 2016, Miss Thomas had approached her line manager and allegedly asked her to look at the same clip.

The police were notified and commenced an investigation, which included a short viewing of the video by a police officer.  This showed a woman poking a child in the face with a stick and seeming to stick it up the child’s bottom.  The entire length of the video was nearly four and a half minutes.  Detective Constable MN said that the video clip is classed as an indecent image and possession or distribution of it would amount to a criminal offence, albeit that in this instance the police made a decision not to prosecute but told Miss Thomas to delete the video. 

On the 13 January 2016, Miss Thomas admitted to her line manager that she had shown the offending video to the mother, claiming that she thought she was helping the mother by demonstrating how much worse the situation of the parents could have been and she sought to reassure the mother that her child was in good hands.

The HCPC Panel decided that Miss Thomas’s behaviour constituted misconduct. While they accepted that she had apologised at the time, admitted the allegations, had a previously unblemished record and accepted that no harm was specifically intended, the Panel highlighted her gross misjudgement in showing, and attempting to show, the offending clip to at least three different people within the same morning. There also appeared to be no remediation.

“The Panel is aware that the sanction of suspension should be considered where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated.  The Registrant has shown no sign of engagement with the HCPC since the summer of 2017. There is, thus, no evidence of any reflection on her part into the gravity of her misconduct. She even went so far in her statement of 20 July 2017, as to state that ‘the police officers said there were no indecent images on my phone’. This was in conflict with the minutes of the LADO Professional Strategy meeting on 18 January 2016. This attitude, in the view of the Panel, is symptomatic of the Registrant’s continued denial of the effects of her misconduct,” said the Panel.

“The Registrant’s misjudgements in this case resulted in a lack of awareness of her duty to the parents of the looked after child. Her actions ran counter to all the professional training she must have received as a Social Worker. In all the above circumstances, the only appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose is that of a Striking Off Order. This is required as a deterrent, for the purposes of public protection and is also in the wider interest of the public,” the Panel added.

 

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