By Richard Savill | Telegraph.co.uk
A fantasist who hired a hitman to kill her former husband was employed as a senior social worker in charge of vulnerable children after a council failed to properly check her criminal record.
Lynda Barnes, 55, was convicted of conspiracy to murder after offering a contract killer Ł10,000 to "take out" her former husband Rodney.
She was given a two-year suspended prison sentence in 1995 and was sacked from her job at Avon County Council.
The author of a pre-sentence report said that her "sense of reality is blurred with her fantasies" and that she "needs assistance in enabling her to separate reality from fantasy".
However, seven years later she was hired by neighbouring Bath and North East Somerset Council, despite admitting to a conviction during the application process.
She was promoted to a senior job managing 20 social workers for three years before her criminal past became more widely known.
At the time of her conviction Barnes was a social worker in the child care department of Avon County Council.
She tried to take her employer to a tribunal for unfair dismissal, but the case was dismissed.
Despite her conviction and sacking, Barnes was given a job at Bath and North East Somerset Council in September 2005 as an assistant team manager and became a team manager a year later.
But details of her past emerged during a child protection case at Bath county court last June where she allegedly lied on oath and asked another social worker to do the same.
Judge Paul Barclay said he was "appalled" and carried out his own investigation into Mrs Barnes' past.
It was discovered that she had disclosed her conviction during the application process but that was a "highly sanitised" version of events.
She also disclosed her conviction when she registered with the General Social Care Council (GSCC) in January 2006.
However, although Mrs Barnes had given authority for her file to be retrieved neither the council nor the GSCC had done so.
Mrs Barnes, from Nailsea, north Somerset, has now resigned and Bath and North East Somerset council has reviewed all cases she handled during her employment.
The council has also apologised to families for Mrs Barnes' conduct.
Mrs Barnes was involved in 17 cases in which 31 children were removed from the care of their parents before she resigned in March this year.
Judge Barclay's report into the case was made public after Mrs Barnes failed in a Court of Appeal application to prevent her being identified.
Bath and North East Somerset admitted it was a mistake to employ Barnes but said no children under Barnes' protection had been unfairly removed from their families.
"We have looked again at our systems and found that they are correct but need more rigorous enforcement," a spokesman said.
The GSCC, which is now reviewing Mrs Barnes' registration, said it knew about her conviction and referred her application to a committee in 2006, which agreed she could be registered.
A spokesman for the GSCC said in a statement: "We are applying to suspend Mrs Barnes on a temporary basis whilst we investigate."