Ed Balls was too quick to sack Baby P chief, rules Court of Appeal

Sharon Shoesmith, who was vilified after the death of the toddler Baby P, won her appeal yesterday that she was "unfairly and unlawfully" sacked.

As director of Haringey Council's children's services, she was the focus of public fury when it was revealed that 17-month-old Peter Connelly died of abuse despite extensive contacts with social workers, and was sacked by then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls.

Yesterday, the 58-year-old said she was "over the moon and absolutely thrilled" after three appeal court judges ruled that her position did not mean that her "head must roll" without a fair hearing. She could now receive as much as £1 million in compensation.

Lawyers for the Department of Education and Haringey Council immediately said they would seek to challenge the court ruling that her dismissal was "procedurally unfair" in the Supreme Court.

Mr Balls said yesterday that he strongly disagreed with the court judgement, adding: "A little boy, Baby Peter, was cruelly abused by his mother and her partner and died from his injuries after great suffering. He was badly let down by all those who were responsible for his safety.

"My response to the huge torrent of public outrage was not to rush to judgement, but instead to commission (an independent) report ...when it was presented to me, (it) catalogued catastrophic management failures on such a devastating scale.

"I judged, on the basis of that independent report – and on the advice of departmental officials and lawyers – that the right and responsible course of action was for me to use my statutory powers to remove the Director of Children's Services from her position with immediate effect."

Appeal judges allowed Ms Shoesmith's challenge against a High Court ruling that cleared Mr Balls and the local authority of acting unlawfully when she was dismissed. Her appeal against regulator Ofsted was dismissed. Lawyers argued that Ms Shoesmith – who was sacked in December 2008 after a damning Ofsted report exposed failings in her department – had been the victim of "a flagrant breach of natural justice" as she was driven from her £133,000-a-year post by a media witch hunt and political pressure.

She asked the judges to rule that her sacking without compensation was legally flawed and that she remained entitled to her full salary and pension from Haringey up to the present day.

The judges said they were allowing Ms Shoesmith's appeal because she was denied "elementary fairness" when Mr Balls did not afford her "the opportunity to put her case".

"We rejected a submission on behalf of the Secretary of State that the situation was too urgent to permit the adoption of a fairer procedure," they said, adding: "We were unanimously of the view that Haringey's procedures were tainted by unfairness."

Outstanding questions over the "remedy" would be sent to the High Court for consideration.

The judges emphasised that it was not for them "to express any view on whether Ms Shoesmith should or should not have been removed from office" or on the extent to which she was "blameworthy", if at all.

Outside court Ms Shoesmith said: "My sorrow about the death of Peter Connelly in Haringey when I was director is something which will stay with me for the rest of my life. But as the judges have said, making a 'public sacrifice' of an individual will not prevent further tragedies."

Peter's mother Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and Barker's brother Jason Owen were acquitted of murder and manslaughter at a trial in November 2008 but convicted of causing or allowing Peter's death contrary to section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.

* Today Ms Shoesmith repeated her position, saying that she could not control every aspect of public agencies' involvement with abused children.



"As a director of children's services I cannot control what the police do, I cannot control what health does. I cannot control the fact that when a social worker rings to get an appointment at a hospital she cannot get it for four months,



"I cannot control the fact when a social worker is referring a child for abuse that she rings up and finds that a case has not been allocated to a police officer for four months. I can't control those matters, this is much more complex than saying you are responsible, let's sack you and the whole nation will be at peace."



Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she added: "You cannot stop the death of children." She refused to say what level of compensation she had in mind.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine