Safeguarding chief feared intelligence from child sexual exploitation panel would be leaked
- Credit: Wales News Service
Oversights were made during an investigation into a child sexual exploitation panel which feared Weston-super-Mare businesses could be putting young people at risk, a tribunal heard this week.
North Somerset Council’s former head of safeguarding, Maggie Siviter, aged 56, is suing the authority for £1.4million for breach of contract.
The authority says Ms Siviter breached data protection rules in 2015. But Ms Siviter argues she should have been protected as she was a whistleblower into child sexual exploitation and grooming of young girls at businesses in Weston.
Ms Siviter was chairman on a child sexual exploitation panel, on which members of Trading Standards were concerned about two girls and connections with various Weston businesses.
An employment tribunal in Cardiff heard on Tuesday how Ms Siviter raised concerns about information from the child sexual exploitation panel potentially being leaked, after it emerged the woman taking the minutes at a meeting in October 2015 was related to the owner of Butterfly’s massage parlour.
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As Butterfly’s, which police shut down for operating as a brothel earlier this month, was named in the meeting, Ms Siviter feared there was a conflict of interest and the concerns would be leaked to the parlour’s owners.
Her fears were investigated by Robert Long, whose job at the council involved examining potential data protection breaches.
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The tribunal heard how during the course of his investigation, Mr Long changed the focus from the alleged conflict of interest to Ms Siviter breaching data protection rules in her role as panel chairman.
His report formed part of the evidence used by the council to dismiss her.
At the tribunal, Mr Long said he spoke to a colleague who told him the panel lacked a data sharing agreement, which would have allowed members to share sensitive information about children and possible abusers.
Mr Long did not mention in his final report whether or not his colleague had raised this issue with Ms Siviter. He also did not formally interview his colleague.
Although Mr Long did interview Ms Siviter during the early stages of his conflict of interest investigation, he did not speak to her once the scope of his enquiries changed to focus on her alleged data protection breaches.
When the judge presiding over the case said he was ‘quite surprised’ the information was not in his report, Mr Long admitted these were ‘oversights’.
Mr Long told the tribunal no pressure was put on him by other senior council employees in the legal and child services departments to come to a decision they wanted regarding Ms Siviter’s employment.
Ms Siviter’s solicitor said the mistakes were ‘glaring’.
The tribunal continues.