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BASW calls for social workers and judges to get same protection as celebrities

Following a successful campaign to take down a number of online hate sites ‘naming and shaming’ social workers and family court judges engaged in the protection of vulnerable children, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and its trade union arm the Social Workers Union (SWU) is asking for these professionals to receive the same concern from the police as recent high profile figures, including diver Tom Daley and Premier League referee Mark Halsey.

The websites feature the names, pictures and addresses of social workers and family court judges, placing them at risk of personal harm. The sites also use menacing imagery and threats, such as “you have our addresses we now have yours !!! expect us xx”.

Unlike celebrity figures being targeted for abuse online, and the identity of the individuals behind these sites being known, no action has been taken by the authorities as yet. BASW/SWU is urging a swift effort to follow up its efforts to have them closed down, asking the authorities to take steps to safeguard social workers and family court judges against potential assault.

David Allan, acting assistant general secretary of the Social Workers Union, said:

“This libellous publication of information and opinion on the internet is equivalent to spreading unedited opinion in a newspaper or on television. A responsible employer should regard it as a type of assault, and employers should have very clear procedures as to how to deal with members of the public who are abusive to, or who assault, employees to whom they have a duty of care.

“We are encouraging employers to press for legal action against the individual concerned, as a clear message that this type of abuse will not be tolerated.”

Bridget Robb, acting chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said:

“We are grateful to the support shown by Facebook and other web providers for their stance in removing hate sites. We will be writing to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) asking to liaise with them on their consultation response to the recently proposed guidance to prosecutors on social media cases. We believe we have the names of the individuals behind these sites and we will be giving them to the police. We will continue to press for action every time a site emerges, until they are stopped.”

“We will also be asking the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and the Ministry of Justice to contribute to this debate, and reminding employers once more of their duty of care towards their social workers.”

Notes to editors:

• Under the Communications Act 2003 it is an offence to send a message using a public electronic communications network if it is “grossly offensive”.

• Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer has recently said that he will launch a public consultation and issue guidelines on how to deal with abusive comments posted on social media sites.