Disgraced child worker costs council £750k

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A council will have to foot a £750,000 legal bill for a court case in which a disgraced social worker lied, leading to her criminal past being exposed.

Bath and North East Somerset Council employed Lynda Barnes, who had a conviction for conspiring to murder her ex-husband.

Mrs Barnes, 55, from Nailsea, North Somerset, was employed by Banes in 2005 despite the fact that she had been sacked by its predecessor, Avon County Council, ten years earlier following her conviction.

She was given a two-year suspended jail sentence at Bristol Crown Court on March 24 1995 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder her ex-husband after asking someone to hire a hit man for £10,000.

Mrs Barnes worked as a social work team manager for Banes for more than three years on child protection cases.

The matter came to light during a child protection case being heard in a family court where she is alleged to have lied on oath and asked another social worker to lie to the court.

The judge in the case, Judge Paul Barclay, was appalled and carried out his own inquiries into Mrs Barnes' past.

He published his ruling in the case last week after Mrs Barnes failed in a Court of Appeal application to prevent her being identified.

Judge Barclay has now ordered the council chiefs who hired her to pay half the legal aid costs of the families involved in the case.

They are expected to exceed £500,000, which will be on top of the council's own legal fees, which could be around £250,000.

Today the council reassured taxpayers that services would not be directly affected by the case.

A spokesman said they had planned for the possibility of a hefty legal bill in their budget and would take the case from their 'risk reserves' pot.

"The judge decided that the Council should pay 50 per cent of the costs of the publicly-funded parties in this case," he said.

"There were five parties that came within this category, represented by both senior and junior counsel for two parties and counsel for three others.

"Final costs have not yet been assessed, but we estimate that the amount the Council will have to pay will be around £500,000.

"We estimate that our own legal costs will be around £250,000.

"This was a very complicated court case.

"The case took a significant length of time to resolve because of the number of parties involved and discoveries made by a judge about Lynda Barnes.

"The Council had made provision for these costs, which will be paid out of risk reserves.

"No services will be cut as a result of this, nor will this affect the future level of Council Tax."

Mrs Barnes resigned in March this year but had been involved in 17 cases in which 31 children were removed from the care of their parents.

The council has conducted an internal review into all the cases, the results of which are now awaiting verification from a separate NSPCC inquiry.