AN experienced social worker has been suspended for three months for misconduct after making inappropriate remarks to a female colleague and decisions that potentially placed two children at risk.

Anthony Nicholson, who was hired through an agency by Durham County Council, managed the Peterlee and Easington South Children In Need teams, respectively, from early 2009 to February 2010, when he was “required to leave”.

The General Social Care Council was told the allegations came in a climate of friction between the two teams, which shared office space, particularly after Mr Nicholson took over managing the Easington South team in July 2009.

The hearing heard that Mr Nicholson told a female colleague he would like to “sexually assault” her.

He denied the claim, saying a number of witnesses had colluded to tarnish his name, because they did not like him or his style of management.

However, the council said the target of his remark was a “convincing and reliable witness”.

The committee said it has also been proved that in June 2009, Mr Nicholson had not, as required, referred the case of a child with unexplained bruising on his body and concerns about his mother, to a strategy meeting within 24 hours.

It was also found that in January 2010 he told a social worker under his management to recommend unsupervised contact between a child and a man, even though care proceedings regarding the man and injuries to another child were ongoing.

It said that by doing so, he compromised her position as a registered social worker.

The council said it took into account the fact that Mr Nicholson, a social worker for 30 years with an unblemished record, had been considered to be a “safe pair of hands”

and was held in high regard by management.

The committee found that, although the two incidents with the children involved poor decision-making, glowing references from colleagues suggested Mr Nicholson’s decision-making overall was not poor, and that the cases were only two out of hundreds he dealt with at the time. He was cleared of a number of other allegations relating to female colleagues.