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Council boss says she was sacked for raising child sexual abuse fears

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:20 29 September 2017

Maggie Siviter is suing North Somerset Council after being dismissed in 2015.

Maggie Siviter is suing North Somerset Council after being dismissed in 2015.

Wales News Service Ltd.

A former council boss has claimed she was sacked for raising concerns over sexual exploitation and grooming of vulnerable young girls at businesses in Weston.

A former council boss has claimed she was sacked for raising concerns over sexual exploitation and grooming of vulnerable young girls at businesses in Weston.

North Somerset Council’s former safeguarding lead, Maggie Siviter, told an employment tribunal authorities failed to act when she warned licensed premises were suspected of being used to groom underage girls.

The 56-year-old is suing the council for £1.4million for breach of contract, arguing she should have been protected by whistleblowing laws.

Ms Siviter, who was dismissed in November 2015 after just six months in the post, believes she was forced out by the authority in ‘retaliation’ after she escalated her concerns to young person’s watchdog Ofsted when her pleas for an investigation were ignored.

She believes ‘the quality of the service provided to children was severely compromised’.

Speaking at Pontypridd County Court last week, Ms Siviter said no risk assessments were completed by the council over suspicions girls were being sexually exploited at Butterfly’s massage parlour, a bar owned by Kiem Binh Mu and his brother Cam, and an Indian restaurant run by Alkas Hussain – claims condemned as ‘100 per cent false’ by Mr Hussain to the Mercury.

Ms Siviter said she also had concerns about the influence of Cllr Peter Bryant – who she claimed was an acquaintance of the men linked to exploitation – on the council’s willingness to investigate her claims.

Cllr Bryant reportedly failed in an appeal to have his name excluded from the tribunal.

Ms Siviter convened three multi-agency meetings between August and October 2015 to discuss the intelligence. The second meeting was held after it came to light children had been working at the massage parlour.

She said: “One girl said she had worked there for 18 months and made allegations that she had been forced to have sex with men.”

The suspicions were first raised by council official Julian Feltwell, who was investigating a premises owned by Mr Hussain for supplying counterfeit tobacco.

Mr Feltwell told the tribunal: “There was the suspicion tobacco was being used to groom and reward children for possible child sexual exploitation.

“I became aware employees of one businessman in question resided in a house of multiple occupancy owned by Cllr Bryant.”

Mr Feltwell added Cllr Bryant was connected to the Binh Mu brothers who were ‘previously suspected of allowing young girls on to their licensed premises where the suspicion was that they were being groomed’.

Cllr Bryant provided a character reference for Cam – who was later jailed – when he was on trial for pulling a shotgun on a council tax bailiff.

Ms Siviter said it was ‘concerning’ Cllr Bryant ‘had connections with those discussed as being potentially harmful to children’ and there were ‘concerns the behaviour of an elected member was affecting the safeguarding of children at risk of sexual exploitation’.

Tony Oliver, chairman of North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board, described one of the meetings as ‘based on rumours and speculation’.

The tribunal continues today (Thursday) and tomorrow, with two later dates scheduled for late December.

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