CHILD safeguarding procedures must not be allowed to slip back ‘into old ways’ says the woman who warned of the inappropriate behaviour of a former County Council youth worker later convicted of child sex offences.
Earlier this month former youth worker Michael ‘Mik’ Smith was convicted of child sex offences which occurred after he was sacked by Pembrokeshire County Council in 2012.
But complaints about his behaviour with young people had been made as far back as 2005.
Sue Thomas attempted to blow the whistle on Smith but despite an investigation finding him guilty of six complaints out of 11 made, he was let off with a verbal warning and allowed to continue working with children.
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler wants the case in 2005 to be reinvestigated to establish whether children were left at risk.
Sue said she and other youth workers made complaints about Smith as it had “reached a point where we had to do something”.
“A number of people came forward with complaints but we were not listened too. They were taking his word over ours but even when found guilty of six complaints at that stage he should have had more than a verbal warning.
“Bryn Parry-Jones’ response was very patronising, I was upset and disappointed and very angry. That was the main feeling throughout because it wasn’t being dealt with. They turned it around on me as having a personal problem with him even though seven or eight other workers put forward complaints,” added Sue.
She also made clear that the chief executive knew she had raised complaints and that she was attempting to make disclosures as a whistle blower.
At that time official whistle blowing procedures were not in place at Pembrokeshire County Council so Smith was notified of who had submitted complaints before any investigation.
Although positive changes have been made Sue is concerned that these were only made when the council’s hand was being forced by outside organisations.
“Smith could have been and should have been stopped a long time ago. I want to know at what level of seniority the decision was made not to do anything about it?
“I don’t feel it’s over yet. I think Bryn Parry-Jones should be answerable but whether he’s going to be is another matter.
“I’m not convinced that the same culture will not start creeping back in again, it has to be kept an eye on until changes are made higher up,” she added.
“There was a culture of bullying and not being listened to by management, the management you hope would listen to you and take you seriously just turned their backs.
“I can’t believe that this boy is the only victim in the time period that we are talking about.”
At full council last week, Council leader Jamie Adams admitted there had been failings in the way Smith's disciplinary proceedings were handled and apologised to all those involved.
He said such failings would not be repeated if such an issue were to happen today.