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Tuesday, 06 June 2017

Social worker who sold child's address for holiday avoids custodial sentence

Written by Claire Hayhurst

A social worker who sold the address of an adopted child to her birth mother to pay for a holiday to the Dominican Republic has walked free from court.

Androulla Farr, 50, contacted the "vulnerable" mother and offered to hand over details of her young daughter's adopted family in exchange for £2,000.

The mother was "desperate" to know the information and agreed to pay - with Farr passing it to her on a piece of paper during a meeting at a cafe.

She later wrote a letter to her daughter, telling her that she would be visiting the area where the girl lived with her adoptive parents.

Bristol Crown Court heard the family were so concerned that they left their jobs, home and relocated to a different area of the country.

Farr, who is married and has a daughter, was later arrested and admitted a charge under the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889.

Judge William Hart sentenced Farr to 16 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered her to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.

"You were a community family support worker and established a very close working relationship with the girl's mother," the judge said.

"She was a vulnerable person because of her drug problems. Her child was taken away and adopted.

"You told her you would pass on the address of her daughter in exchange for money.

"One can almost understand it if you had done it out of a sense of kindness to her, even if it was misplaced, but to do it for cash payment is low indeed."

The judge said Farr passing on the information went against the "whole principle" of the child's address not being disclosed to her birth mother.

"You took advantage of a vulnerable birth mother, you disclosed the details of both the child and her adoptive parents," he added.

"You breached the trust reposed in you by your employers and you threw away in a moment your good name."

Bristol Crown Court (pictured) heard Farr, of West Wick, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, worked with both the birth mother, the child and her adoptive parents.

The birth mother was only allowed to contact her daughter through letters delivered through social services.

Prosecuting, Mary Cowe said she was not allowed to know her daughter's address to "give her the chance to live a more settled childhood".

"In 2006 this defendant made an unscheduled visit to the birth mother's home address and started to talk about the fact she needed money for a trip to the Dominican Republic," Ms Cowe said.

"She said she could provide details of where her daughter was living for £2,000.

"The birth mother was desperate to know this information for her own peace of mind and agreed to meet the defendant the next day."

The woman raised £1,800 from family and friends, which she handed to Farr at a cafe - paying the remaining £200 at a later date.

"There was a stamp on the defendant's passport in 2006 indicating a trip to the Dominican Republic," Ms Cowe added.

"The defendant had talked about this as the holiday of a lifetime. She knew and exploited the birth mother's desire to know where her little girl was.

"It is fortunate that the birth mother was so responsible but the defendant had no control of that."

The birth mother did not use the information until 2012, when she sent a letter to her daughter stating that she was passing her local area.

She informed social services that she had received the address in 2013 but did not name Farr as the culprit until 2015, prompting a police investigation.

Ms Cowe said that since the incident, the birth mother has reached a "good place" and is in contact with her daughter and the adoptive parents.

In police interview, Farr admitted handing over the address for money and accepted that she had gone on holiday to the Dominican Republic.

Representing Farr, Charles Rowe said his client had no previous convictions and displayed "genuine remorse".

He said that she was in debts of £22,000 at the time of the offence, having overspent as an outlet to deal with stress in her life.

"The Dominican Republic holiday - it is true that she did go there," he said.

"That was arranged and paid for by her husband. At that time her debt was kept a secret from him."

Farr's husband and daughter, who is due to give birth in June, have supported her throughout the proceedings.

"She is desperately sorry for what she did," Mr Rowe added.

The judge made Farr the subject of a curfew, between 9pm and 6am, for four months but delayed it until July 3 so she could attend the birth of her grandchild.

Farr left her job as a community family support worker in 2006 and has since worked her way up through a company from carer to deputy manager.

She has been suspended from that role since her arrest in 2015.

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