THE charity boss at the centre of the Downing Street bullying row was yesterday accused of failing to adequately investigate allegations that a North-East council officer had been victimised at work.

Christine Pratt, chief executive of the National Bullying Helpline, was hired by Durham County Council to investigate allegations of misconduct made against Christina Blythe, who had been suspended from her job with Durham County Council’s Youth Engagement Service in 2006.

However, Ms Blythe made counterclaims that she had been subjected to a “vindictive campaign”

and made allegations of bullying against David Williams, the council’s director of children’s and young people’s services.

But an employment tribunal in Newcastle heard yesterday that Mrs Pratt failed to interview key witnesses to the alleged bullying.

Ms Blythe was eventually fired from her £66,000-a-year a job after being found guilty of gross misconduct, but the 51-year-old is claiming unfair dismissal.

The tribunal heard evidence yesterday that Mrs Pratt was hired by the council to investigate Ms Blythe, of St Nicholas Drive, Durham City, during her year-long suspension in 2007.

Edward Legard, for Ms Blythe, asked the council’s head of human resources, Kim Jobson, about Mrs Pratt’s involvement in the investigation.

He said: “You referred to her as having a national reputation?”

Referring to the ongoing Number Ten bullying scandal, Ms Jobson said: “She certainly has now.”

Mr Legard said: “She has a national reputation for breaching confidentiality. You are aware of the fact she failed to record what witnesses saw and failed to interview witnesses?”

But Ms Jobson said it was her deputy who dealt with Mrs Pratt.

Mr Legard added: “The fact is that, on the face of it, Christine Pratt failed to speak to crucial witnesses despite being asked to by Ms Blythe.”

The council and Mr Williams deny the claims against them.

Ms Blythe, a former deputy headteacher at King James Community Arts College, in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, previously told the tribunal that Mr Williams had created a new “senior leadership team” within weeks of taking over, from which she was left out.

She was suspended on full pay in December 2006 and dismissed in January 2008 after a number of allegations were found against her.

The hearing is expected to end next week and the tribunal is due to return its verdict in the spring.