South West Wales

Jailed ex-youth worker applied to foster, report reveals

Michael John Smith Image copyright Dyfed-Powys Police
Image caption Smith was jailed for six years in 2014

An ex-youth worker jailed for child sex offences could have been approved as a foster carer, a case review has found.

An investigation into Pembrokeshire council's dealings with Michael Smith said it was "only luck" that stopped his application.

The 2015 review was confidential, but a copy of the report has been exclusively obtained by the Western Telegraph.

It revealed a head of service initially failed to provide information of child protection concerns about Smith.

Pembrokeshire council said "it is unfortunate that a member of the authority has seen fit to disclose the report, contrary to advice".

Smith, from Haverfordwest, was employed as a youth worker for the council between May 2001 and January 2012.

During that time he was the subject of three disciplinary hearings.

Allegations against him included allowing a child to sit on his lap and drive his Land Rover, allowing a child to sit in his Land Rover without wearing a seatbelt, and a young person, who had been reported missing by their foster carer, had shown up at his home.

The report, which was compiled by an independent social worker, said Smith "displayed many grooming behaviours during the years he was employed by Pembrokeshire council but there were no direct allegations of abuse during this time".

Image caption A copy of the confidential case review which was written in October 2015

Smith was dismissed for gross misconduct and in September 2013 a police investigation began after he was accused of sexually abusing a boy.

He was jailed for six years in July 2014 after admitting sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13, inciting the child to engage in sexual activity and taking indecent photographs of the child.

He also admitted possessing 1,136 indecent images of children.

The report said in 2010 Smith had applied to Pembrokeshire council to become a respite foster carer.

The fostering team wrote to the Head of Youth Service for his views on Smith's application.

The report said the head of service had "replied in very positive terms".

'Only luck'

A formal reference form which the head of service was sent asked him to "highlight any concerns" regarding Smith's employment, including any disciplinary proceedings and the outcomes.

The head of service left the section blank.

It was not until the papers were distributed to the foster panel that one of the members recalled Smith had been investigated previously for inappropriate behaviour with children and had been disciplined.

The panel concluded Smith was not suitable for approval to be a foster carer.

"By withholding relevant information and leaving the section of the form blank, the foster panel might have concluded that there had been no concerns and no disciplinary action," the report said.

"It was only chance that a member of the fostering panel recollected the safeguarding investigation in 2005" and "only luck that prevented Smith from being approved as a foster carer".

There have been calls to make the report public.

The latest request took place at full council on 2 March when Cllr Mike Stoddart had put forward a notice of motion asking for it to be published.

He said it is in "the public interest to publish the report so that the electorate can be fully apprised of the chain of events surrounding this issue."

His motion was defeated by a single vote.

A statement from Pembrokeshire council said: "The report contains personal information in relation to children, parents and professionals, and the report was made available to members on this basis. Further publication of this report was restricted.

"On making the report available to all members, they were made aware that there are families in the area who remain affected by the actions of Mr Smith, and were reminded of their corporate obligation to safeguard everyone in the community."

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