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Man wins compensation after recording saves him from prison

COMPENSATION: Lovel Brian Dennis (left) with his brother Kenneth

A Hackney man has been given compensation after a secret recording saved him from a prison sentence when social workers falsely accused him of criminal conduct.

Lovell Brian Dennis, 48, was awarded thousands of pounds in an out of court settlement on June 6, after suing Hackney Council on claims of negligence, breach of human rights and misfeasance in public office.

The lawsuit stemmed from circumstances in April 2009 when Dennis tried to assume responsibility for his brother, Kenneth Plummer, who was under the council’s care.

Dennis told The Voice: “I feel very relieved that this had been concluded and that I can continue with my life because I was going through a lot of stress and anxiety over the last three years.”

He told how he was accused of using threatening and abusive language and threatening a social worker after he first met officials from Hackney Council’s Learning and Disability department during a discharge meeting at Homerton hospital in east London where his brother, who has Down’s syndrome, was in care at the time for stomach problems.

APOLOGY: Hackney Council issued an apology to Dennis

He was later accused of criminal damage and pushing a social worker against a wall at a care home where he supposedly had a second encounter with a social worker when he visited his brother.

Dennis found himself facing charges of affray, threat to kill, assault and criminal damage. However, Snaresbrook Crown Court found him not guilty in April 2011, based on recordings he secretly made during one meeting that showed he did not behave as alleged and contradicted testimony from a prosecution witness.

In May 2011, when The Voice first reported the story, Dennis, from Hackney, said buying a dictaphone was “the wisest £50 I’ve ever spent in my life because if I didn’t spend this £50, as the barrister said in the court, I would’ve got three to six years.”

Dennis said he was also accused of “having designs” on his brother’s money and at one point, officials appeared to have invented a fictitious brother.

A Hackney Council review on Plummer’s health when he was under his foster carer’s supervision, seen by The Voice last May, stated: ‘One brother, Brian, visits regularly, and Kenny enjoys these visits… However, other members visit more sporadically, which can leave Kenny feeling confused. Additional problems have developed due to the inheritance. There is concern about one brother, Lowell (sic), who is keen to manage Kenny’s money.’

Dennis later complained to the Ombudsman, who considers complaints of service failure and maladministration causing injustice. The Ombudsman upheld some of Dennis’ claims, ruling on January 26, 2011 that Dennis ‘was the subject of false allegations by his brother’s care manager regarding his behaviour at a meeting in a hospital’.

The Ombudsman added: ‘The foster carer has signed a statement confirming that the complainant has never asked or bothered her for his brother’s money and that she had never given the social worker the impression that he had been behaving in this manner.’

In reacting to the outcome Dennis said last week: “I hope there can be an independent body that can monitor social workers (to see) that they are doing their jobs properly. I would like Parliament to do that. I believe there should be an investigation into those social workers and the previous cases they were dealing with because there could be innocent people who have been put in prison because of false accusations. If I didn’t have my tape, I could be in prison.”

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “Hackney Council has apologised to Mr Dennis and agreed a financial settlement. Improve-ments have also been made to the service to prevent something similar happening again.”

The claim was referred to Hackney borough's insurers and a settlement reached without Hackney council admitting liability.

The council has since recruited new management and staff and improved systems and procedures.

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