The High Court has granted Social Work England an extension to an Interim Suspension Order relating to a social worker with a criminal history.

The case related to concerns linked to conduct which was the subject of a crown court conviction and a 30-month custodial sentence imposed on the Defendant, a social worker, in July 2019, for offences of fraud by way of false representations, relating to a period of more than a decade during which he had unlawfully sublet a local authority social housing tenancy. The ISO was imposed, as I have said, in April 2020. That was prior to the Defendant’s release, on home detention curfew, on 15 June 2020. The ISO has been reviewed on several occasions.

The SWE proceedings against the Defendant have been properly pursued and progressed through to the service of the case on the Defendant in June 2021 and the fixing of final hearings to take place in August 2021 and again in December 2021, each of which had to be adjourned for reasons relating to the Defendant’s health. Steps have subsequently been progressed for an independent expert medical assessment to address the Defendant’s health and his fitness to participate in the proceedings. Such an assessment has also been postponed, as recently as last month, for reasons linked to the circumstances of homelessness.

SWE applied for a twelve-month extension to 21 May 2023 of an interim suspension order (ISO) originally imposed on 24 April 2020 for 18 months and extended by 7 months by Order of this Court on 27 September 2021, which unless extended by this Court will expire on 22 May 2022.

Mr Justice Fordham, in granting the extension said:

“SWE is seeking to find ways forward, to bring the underlying proceedings to a substantive outcome. That includes engaging with the Defendant to seek to schedule the medical assessment. The Defendant has recently stated by email his availability to meet with the medical expert. But if those attempts were to fail, SWE envisages as a last resort a case-management hearing to list the case through to a final hearing, in any event, even if there were the continuing absence of a medical assessment. There are clear and obvious risks in the circumstances of this case of further delays. The extension of 12 months is justified, to provide ‘headroom’. If there are further delays in this case, the Court can take confidence from the way in which the case has been approached and there is no need to require SWE to return to this Court to justify the ongoing ISO, during the next 12 months. If the case is resolved substantively within that period, the ISO will in any event fall away, one way or the other. Meanwhile, the ISO will be reviewed, under the review mechanism in the Regulations, every 3 months. In addition, there is the liberty to apply provision.

“I take full account of the prejudice to the Defendant from being unable to work as a social worker, recognising the prospect that it is materially contributing to his current circumstances. But there is in this case a very clear objective justification rendering necessary the extension of the ISO, for the period of 12 months, for imperative public protection and public interest reasons.”

Insight Works Training