The High Court has approved an application by Social Work England for an extension of an Interim Suspension Order (ISO).

In Social Work England v Edmund [2024] EWHC 826 (Admin) (12 April 2024), the social work regulator applied for an extension in relation to a case involving a social worker accused of assault.  Mr Fordham explained:

“What is at the heart of this case is an allegation that at an unscheduled visit in June 2022 to the home of a service user – a child with whom Mr Edmund was working – Mr Edmund physically assaulted an adult family member, by grabbing them forcefully by the arm and pushing them through a doorway, witnessed by another adult family member. There is evidence about this, about it this was reported, about what was said to have happened, and about what happened next. There is photographic evidence said to show bruising said to have been caused in the incident.”

The defendant argued that the extension to the ISO should be refused by this Court, on the basis of conclusions which can be reached by paying particular attention to the quality of the evidence. However, Mr Justice Fordham commented that:

“Having carefully considered the points made about the evidence by Mr Edmund, I am not able “clearly” to see that this is a case which has “little merit”.”

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Fordham J however went on to say:

“I agree with Mr Edmund that close scrutiny needs to be given in the present case to the justification for the 18 month extension being sought. In her approach and the assistance that she has given me Ms Bass for SWE has also proceeded on the basis that such scrutiny is appropriate. Alongside the nature of the underlying allegation, there are the other features of the case and the circumstances, including the passage of time. The ISO is due to expire on 23 April 2024. The extension that is sought is a further 18 months, through to 22 October 2025. Whether that and indeed anything remotely approaching it can be justified as necessary, in the particular circumstances of the present case, raises serious concerns.

“The alleged incident was in June 2022. The referral to SWE by the Agency was on 24 June 2022. I have not seen, or been given, any persuasive basis for thinking that this is a complicated case. It is likely to turn on what was – and is – said by three people: the two adult family members; and Mr Edmund himself. The Agency’s own investigation report was June 2022. The adult family members had then made a formal complaint. SWE’s Case Investigation Report goes back to March 2023.”

He continued:

“…it is important to have well in mind that there are serious and significant public interest and public confidence implications in social workers being sterilised from being able to continue to act as a social workers, for extended periods of time, while unacceptable delays are taking place in dealing with the cases and therefore in arriving at those outcomes (a) which may stand to support final disciplinary action or (b) through which they may be vindicated and finally allowed to return to work.”

Fordham J approved the extension but for a period less than SWE’s application.

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