Thursday, 25 June 2009

Social worker case runs up bill for taxpayer

Taxpayers will have to foot a legal bill approaching a million pounds after the court case involving hitman-hiring social worker Lynda Barnes.
The complex family court case exposed Mrs Barnes' criminal past and her lies under oath and the judge hearing it was so concerned that he ordered the council chiefs who hired her to pay half the legal aid costs.
So even though the families involved in the case were receiving legal aid for challenging the council and its social workers, Judge Paul Barclay said Bath and North East Somerset Council was so liable that it should pay half their' legal aid bill.
That is expected to pass Pfund500,000, and B&NES will also have to pay its own legal bill conservatively put by the council yesterday at Pfund250,000. The full figures are yet to be calculated, but it is expected to be somewhere between three-quarters and a full one million pounds.
Yesterday, B&NES reassured its taxpayers that services would not be directly affected by the case council chiefs had seen the possibility of a hefty legal bill coming and budgeted for it from their 'risk reserves' pot.
The case, which cannot be reported in detail, was a complex child protection one involving an extended family battling with B&NES social services in the family court. As well as B&NES' own legal team, four other sets of barristers and solicitors were involved representing interested parties.
But the case became significantly more complicated when a colleague of Mrs Barnes told her bosses the social worker had lied under oath and asked her to lie too.
Judge Barclay was so appalled he investigated Mrs Barnes himself and discovered she had been sacked by B&NES's predecessor council, Avon, after being found guilty of attempting to hire a hitman to have her husband murdered back in 1995.

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