Sharon Shoesmith defends her role in Baby P case

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The Independent Online

Sharon Shoesmith defended her role in the Baby Peter scandal yesterday, describing the nationwide fury after the case as "absurd" and the response from politicians as "reckless".

Ms Shoesmith, who was sacked as director of children's services at Haringey council in north London in 2008, admitted that errors of judgement had been made by her staff but insisted she bore no personal responsibility for the tragedy.

She told a Commons committee that she felt sorry about the toddler's death but questioned why the police and health services had not also been made to take responsibility.

Appearing before the Education Select Committee, Ms Shoesmith revealed that social workers had been so taken in by 17-month-old Baby Peter's mother, Tracey Connelly, that they could not believe it when police informed them she had been charged over his death.

She said: "I was in the room. Those people who knew Peter Connelly and his mother were completely taken aback. They said 'That can't be the case – you must have it wrong'."

She added that the furore had proved extremely damaging for social workers across the country. "The whole sector is now motivated by fear of failure," she said.

In her opening comments to the hearing, Ms Shoesmith said: "There never was a doubt about how sorry I was, and everyone else at Haringey was, about the murder of Peter Connelly. To construct a narrative which told the public that Peter Connelly died because Haringey was uniquely weak, sack everyone from the director to the social worker and all would be well – was, quite frankly, absurd.

"So I must start by telling you that if you believe the narrative put to the public by some members of the press and some politicians, then we begin on different pages."

Peter Connelly died in August 2007 after suffering horrendous injuries at the hands of his mother, her lover Steven Barker and his brother, Jason Owen. Despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police, he suffered 50 wounds over the final eight months of his life.

Ms Shoesmith, 57, is the first expert to be called in front of the committee, which is examining issues in safeguarding children.