A social worker has been found unfit to practise and removed from the Social Care Register after a Care Council for Wales Fitness to Practise hearing found he’d downloaded indecent images of children.
The hearing at the Care Council’s Cardiff office last week heard that Michael Robert Paton was found to have downloaded and searched for indecent images of children for his own sexual gratification between May 2012 and May 2014.
At the time Mr Paton was employed as an independent reviewing officer in children’s services by Newport City Council where he was responsible for child protection conferences and looked after children reviews.
Mr Paton was arrested in May 2014 after Gwent Police received a tip off from Operation Notarise that someone in his home had been downloading indecent images of children.
Mr Paton, who did not attend the four-day hearing, accepted that he was the only person who used the computer in question, but denied searching for indecent content of children and having any knowledge of the images found on his computer.
The criminal case against Mr Paton did not go to trial. But Mr Paton was suspended by his employer, and following an investigation, dismissed for gross misconduct.
After considering the evidence, the committee was satisfied that three of the four charges brought against Mr Paton were proved. Namely that Mr Paton intentionally downloaded indecent images of children, searched for indecent material of children, and that his actions were sexually motivated.
The committee therefore concluded that Mr Paton’s fitness to practise was impaired because of his misconduct.
Explaining its decision, the committee said: “We have made a clear finding that [Mr Paton] was deliberately engaged in activity whereby he was searching for and viewing indecent images of children on his computer for his own sexual gratification.
“Participating in this behaviour perpetuates and condones the abuse of children. This would be of concern for any social care professional, but is of particular concern in this case given the nature of [his] role. This is a clear case of misconduct.”
The committee continued: “He expressed the view on more than one occasion that he did not understand why anyone was concerned about him having non-sexual naked images of children, who were not his own children, in his possession. This demonstrates an attitude which fundamentally fails to understand the potential emotional consequences for the children that appear in those pictures.
“What is more, our finding is that he has deliberately searched for and looked for pictures with sexual content, knowing that this means that the children involved would have been subjected to abuse.”
Explaining its decision to remove Mr Paton from the Register, the committee said: “The allegations in this case are so serious that they are fundamentally incompatible with working as a social care professional.
“[Mr Paton] has shown no insight into his behaviour, nor any remorse to mitigate this view. We consider that a removal order is necessary for the protection of the public who would expect us to take this step to ensure that [Mr Paton] is not able to practise.”