A SOCIAL worker who was involved in the case of murdered youngster Liam Fee has been struck off after being found guilty of misconduct by a professional watchdog.

The removal of Lesley Bate from the social work register came after a week-long Scottish Social Services Council conduct hearing heard evidence of a dozen examples of poor practice in relation to cases she held relating to 15 children. The charges heard by the regulator’s conduct sub-committee included two relating to the case of Liam, who later died at the hands of his mother and her partner.

As well as barring Ms Bate from social care work, the SSSC also said “systemic failures” at Fife Council were partly to blame for the “pattern of misconduct that developed”.

The committee also hit out at other social workers, including Bate’s boss in the Fife Council child protection team, Karen Pedder, branding them “defensive” and “evasive” when they gave evidence. They were said to be “less reliable than might reasonably have been expected” during the hearing.

Fife Council said the findings of the sub-committee “do not reflect our current practice or the high standard of professionalism we expect from staff”. The council added that the problems within the faction-riven team were historical and had been robustly dealt with.

However Fife SNP councillor Neale Hanvey, the opposition spokesman on social work said he was not satisfied. “Prior to this hearing I was given clear reassurances about the robustness of child protection arrangements. So I was astounded to hear about dysfunctional teams, riven with personality clashes in a toxic atmosphere and nothing being done about it,” he said.

“The significant case review will look into the tragic circumstances around the death of Liam Fee, but people in Fife want to know what has been done about the serious issues raised in evidence at these hearings.”

In a lengthy, damning, judgment, sub-committee convener Catherine Duthie said Ms Bate had left Liam – referred to only as FF in SSSC documents – at “actual or potential risk of harm”.

Specifically in relation to the Fee case, the sub-committee found Ms Bate had failed to follow up with Liam’s health visitor after a referral was made to social workers on January 15, 2013 regarding bruising to his face, or to record any such follow-up. Bate also failed to follow up with Liam’s childminder Heather Farmer after receiving a report of concern that Liam had a sore neck, to consider if an “Initial Referral Discussion” was required regarding the case and to fail to record any follow-up.

Overall, the sub-committee said Ms Bate “failed to take necessary steps to minimise actual or potential risk of harm, failed to maintain clear and accurate records and failed to meet relevant standards of practice.”

Ms Duthie addressed Ms Bate, who was not present, saying her misconduct “could have been addressed more effectively” by the council.

She added: “That is not to say that more effective management intervention would have prevented all of your misconduct but it may have prevented the pattern of misconduct that developed.

“However it does not relieve you of your responsibilities as a social worker and does not excuse your misconduct ... [which] ... is of such a serious nature that it is likely to damage public confidence in social services. The damage may be considerable.”