The social services boss fired after ‘blowing the whistle on grooming’: Chief seeks £1.4m settlement after being sacked when she raised concerns with her seniors

Mail on Line 25 September 2017  

Tom Payne and Simon Trump for the Daily Mail

  • Maggie Siviter, 56, told a tribunal that boys and girls were plied with drugs
  • The former safeguarding head says she was sacked after raising her concerns
  • She claimed North Somerset Council and police failed to act on evidence
  • It included allegations that child sexual exploitation had happened in buildings linked to three local businessmen who were friends with a local Tory councillor
Maggie Siviter, 56, pictured, former head of safeguarding for North Somerset council, told a tribunal that boys and girls were plied with drugs at seedy premises in Weston-super-Mare

Maggie Siviter, 56, pictured, former head of safeguarding for North Somerset council, told a tribunal that boys and girls were plied with drugs at seedy premises in Weston-super-Mare

A social services chief has claimed that she was sacked after ‘blowing the whistle’ on an alleged child sex grooming gang.

Maggie Siviter, 56, former head of safeguarding for North Somerset council, told a tribunal that boys and girls were plied with drugs at seedy premises in Weston-super-Mare.

Mrs Siviter said she was sacked from her £120,000-a-year job in November 2015 after raising her concerns with her seniors in protected disclosures under whistleblowing laws.

She is claiming breach of contract, arguing that, as a whistleblower, she had legal protection from dismissal. The hearing, which is expected to last at least two weeks, was told she will be seeking a £1.4million settlement if she wins her case.

She claimed the council and police failed to act on evidence of child sexual exploitation in buildings linked to three local businessmen who were friends with a Tory councillor.

They included a massage parlour, nightclub, bottle shop and restaurant owned or run by Alkas Hussain, Kiem Binh Mu and his brother Cam.

The three are said to have had personal and professional links with Peter Bryant, 75, a long-serving Tory councillor who lost an appeal to have his name excluded from the tribunal.

Fears about child sexual exploitation were first raised during an investigation into two houses selling counterfeit tobacco, the hearing was told.

Julian Feltwell, a trading standards officer involved in the investigation, said undercover footage of the properties, run by Cam, showed girls being lured inside. Allegations of abuse later emerged when two of the girls reported those involved.

Mr Feltwell, who was suspended soon after Mrs Siviter was dismissed, said the then safeguarding head and her team were able to link the suspected gang to other premises owned by the three men.

These included Butterflies massage parlour, Dragon’s Kiss nightclub, a restaurant and a bottle shop. Connections were then drawn to Mr Bryant’s links to the men.

Mr Feltwell told the tribunal in Pontypridd, South Wales, that Mr Bryant had asked safeguarding staff about the three men’s involvement in social services investigations, adding: ‘He used establishments which were used by these individuals and was on first-name terms. Where does patronage become protection?’

The three are said to have had personal and professional links with Peter Bryant, 75, (pictured) a long-serving Tory councillor who lost an appeal to have his name excluded from the tribunal

Mr Feltwell also detailed Mr Bryant’s close links to Cam Binh Mu, who was jailed for 16 weeks in February last year for producing counterfeit tobacco.

In 2010, Cam was imprisoned for a year for brandishing a shotgun at a council bailiff. In his trial, Mr Bryant produced a glowing reference for him.

Mr Feltwell said: ‘At no point did I say Councillor Bryant was involved in child sexual exploitation, but I had conversations with individuals about his being at the centre of concerns about exploitation and safeguarding.’

In a written statement for the tribunal, Tony Oliver, independent chairman of the North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board, described Mrs Siviter’s meetings about exploitation as ‘shambolic’ and based on ‘rumours and speculation’.

Avon and Somerset Police said there is no investigation into the three men but confirmed the force is aware of the allegations.

Officers were involved in meetings with Mrs Siviter about the child exploitation claims before her dismissal.

A spokesman said the force would not comment while the tribunal is being conducted.

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