Baby P social workers lose tribunal appeal

 

Two of Baby P's social workers have lost an appeal against an employment tribunal ruling that they were fairly sacked.

Speaking after the short hearing, solicitor Riz Majid, representing the women, said they plan to appeal.

"Maria Ward and Gillie Christou are disappointed by the result.

"We will be studying the judgment carefully with a view to going to the Court of Appeal."

The women's lawyers previously argued that their case had been bolstered by a landmark Court of Appeal ruling in May last year that Haringey's children's services director Sharon Shoesmith was unfairly sacked over the Baby P tragedy.

Senior judges found the council and former children's secretary Ed Balls acted in a way that was "procedurally unfair" when Ms Shoesmith was first removed from her post and then fired without compensation in December 2008.

Mrs Christou and Ms Ward's legal teams claim they suffered "double jeopardy" because they faced two Haringey misconduct panels looking at the same allegations against them.

The first disciplinary proceedings, overseen by Ms Shoesmith, concluded that they only needed to receive written warnings, but the second resulted in them being fired.

Their lawyers also argued that the original employment tribunal should have taken into account the fact that Haringey social services were "under-resourced and under-supported" at the time.

Baby P, now named as Peter Connelly, was just 17 months old when he died in Tottenham, north London, on August 3 2007.

He had suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over eight months.

Ms Ward was Peter's nominated social worker at Haringey Council from February 2007 until his death, and Mrs Christou was her team manager.

The pair were sacked after an investigation which discovered there was a period in mid-2007 when they did not know where the child was.

Peter's mother claimed she had taken the little boy to visit her sick uncle in Cricklewood, north west London, despite being told to return home.

A lawyer for Haringey Council told the employment appeal tribunal that the episode represented a "serious error of judgment" on the part of the social workers.

Ms Ward was also found to have failed to meet a requirement to see Peter at least once a fortnight.

In May 2010, a General Social Care Council (GSCC) disciplinary committee suspended Ms Ward for two months and Mrs Christou for four months - on top of a 16-month interim suspension ahead of the hearing - for their misconduct in the Baby P case.

The pair admitted failing to ensure Peter was visited regularly enough, not keeping adequate records and losing contact with him for a time.

Peter's mother Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker, and his brother Jason Owen were jailed in May 2009 for causing or allowing the boy's death.

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said today: "This is a case that should strike fear into the heart of every social worker.

"Social workers are trained professionals attempting to do their best for children under very stressful circumstances, but when things go wrong their mistakes are magnified and the results more tragic than in most areas of work.

"When social workers make serious mistakes, they should face the appropriate sanctions, but no-one should lose sight of the fact they are working in an extremely pressurised system, expected to predict every harmful situation, while meeting the ever-growing demands of a target-led profession."

He said that, at the time of Peter's death, Haringey Council's systems and management were "under-resourced, and staff were overburdened and not supported as they should be".

"Sadly, social workers in Haringey knew that the environment they were working in was inappropriate but they did not raise the alarm in the way the public would have hoped," he said.

"The ability of social workers to blow the whistle on bad practice remains stymied by a culture of fear and where openness and transparency is frowned upon as a risk to the image of a local authority."

He said in a recent survey of more than 1,000 social workers, half said they were afraid to speak out for fear of repercussions and 88% said they felt lives could be put at risk as a consequence of cuts to social work services.

He added: "Social workers should be supported and applauded for the job they do, not be personally exposed and thrown to the lions when mistakes are inevitably made."

The written judgment from Mrs Justice Slade, handed down on her behalf by Mr Justice Wilkie today, said: "The appellants, the social worker responsible for the care of Baby P and her team manager, were held not to have been unfairly dismissed by Haringey for their respective failures in dealing with this case."

The judgment said the Employment Tribunal (ET) did not "err" in finding that Haringey Council was allowed to conduct second formal disciplinary proceedings against the pair.

"It was thought that the previous record-keeping and procedural charges against them which were dealt with using a simplified procedure, under which the maximum penalty was a written warning which they received, did not adequately reflect the seriousness of their failings," it said.

"The previous proceedings were rightly taken into account in determining the fairness of the dismissals.

"The ET did not misdirect themselves or come to a perverse conclusion in deciding that the delay between the events which formed the basis of the complaints against the appellants and the second disciplinary proceedings did not cause them prejudice or render the dismissals unfair.

"The ET did not err in law or come to perverse conclusions in dismissing the appellants' claims for unfair dismissal."

The judgment said the women had failed to surmount the "high hurdle" of proving the original tribunal decision was "perverse".

"The ET heard the cases of Mrs Christou and Ms Ward over eight days," it said.

"The appellants were represented by counsel. In concluding that the dismissals were within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer in the circumstances the ET addressed the right questions of law and reached a conclusion open to them on the evidence."

It said taking all relevant matters into account, the employment tribunal "did not err in law or come to perverse conclusions" and added: "These appeals are dismissed."

PA

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking EY...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER WE CAN HELP ...

Lead FE Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, jQuery, Knockout)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead FE Softwa...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed for Se...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor