Anger over cannabis shame of social worker who had suspension cut (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Anger over cannabis shame of social worker who had suspension cut
A social worker who worked on sensitive children’s care cases in Bradford has been suspended after police found a cannabis factory in her house, disciplinary documents have revealed.
Police caught Jennifer Brownbill attempting to dump nine bin bags full of “a considerable amount” of the drug from her Range Rover at a council-run tip on the same day she refused officers access to her four-storey home.
When they later raided her house, they discovered extractor fans, water butts, high-powered lamps and fans, and other equipment used to grow cannabis, according to disciplinary documents published by the General Social Care Council (GSCC).
She was arrested and cautioned for being concerned in the production of cannabis.
But when she appeared before GSCC conduct committee she initially lied, blaming her son as being responsible before her story unravelled when Sergeant Michael Bowden of West Yorkshire Police told the hearing that, in interview, she said she had set up the factory and had been growing the drug for her own personal use.
The committee reported that her apparent lack of remorse showed her “deep seated attitudinal problems”.
Brownbill was suspended as a social worker for two years, the maximum period possible, but appealed to the Care Standards Tribunal.
At a tribunal hearing, Brownbill’s counsel, Philip McLeish, told the panel that his client was not appealing against the findings of the GSCC but said the sanctions imposed were “disproportionate”.
A decision report from the tribunal hearing on July 18, stated that an unspecified mental health condition can affect the way she gave her evidence. It reads: “We are satisfied to the relevant standard that Miss Brownbill has shown consistent remorse for her behaviour and for bringing her profession into disrepute.”
In the tribunal’s decision, Brownbill states: “The public knowledge of my criminal actions may not affect younger children but I am very aware that adults and adolescents may use my actions to justify their illegal drug use.”
The tribunal Judge Nancy Hiller, wrote in her report: “This is a serious offence and there is accepted dishonesty. We note, however, that there was no suggestion of supplying cannabis to any other person and that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) believed the matter was suitable for caution.
“Having weighed into the balance the remorse and insight demonstrated by Miss Brownbill, the fact that her demeanour can be affected by her mental health and the fact that, in a lengthy career, no other issue of dishonesty or substance abuse has been suggested, we have decided that a suspension of two years is disproportionate.”
The tribunal suspended Brownbill from the Register of Social Workers until October 31 this year.
A Bradford father, whose child was represented for four years by Brownbill, has, however, hit out at the shortened suspension and said she should not be allowed to practice as a social worker again.
He has asked his MP David Ward (Lib Dem, Bradford East) to take up the case.
The father, who cannot be named to protect his child’s identity, said: “I am absolutely livid that she is going to be allowed to work again with children and families. I am certainly going to take this further.”
He added: “Clearly, any social worker who is suffering from mental illness should not be passing judgement on whether children should be allowed to see, in my case, the father.”
Mr Ward said: “She has committed a crime and, as a social worker, she is always going to be in a position of really high responsibility. It is hard to believe she can fulfil that role when she has been irresponsible herself.”
He added: “The measures have been taken against her for justifiable reasons for something that is indefensible.”
A spokesman for Cafcass, which represents children involved in proceedings in family courts, confirmed that Brownbill had worked for the service in Bradford before leaving the organisation ahead of the police or GSCC investigation.
She said: “We have taken our own steps to ensure that Ms Brownbill’s work while employed by Cafcass, was not affected.”
A spokesman for Bradford Council refused to say how many cases Brownbill had been working on in the district before her suspension.
Brownbill confirmed that her appeal had been successful, but said she did not want to comment further when contacted by the Telegraph & Argus.