Warning over cost of Baby P case to taxpayers

Sharon Shoesmith's lengthy legal fight against her sacking could leave taxpayers facing a hefty bill, campaigners warned.

A leading employment lawyer said the former director of children's services at Haringey Council in north London could now receive as much as £1 million in compensation.



But trade union Unison hailed Ms Shoesmith's Court of Appeal victory as a "much-needed boost" to social workers around the country.



With the Department for Education and Haringey Council both announcing that they intend to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, the already large legal costs in the case are set to mount further.



Emma Boon, campaign director of The TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Sharon Shoesmith presided over a catastrophically dysfunctional organisation that ultimately played a part in the tragic death of Peter Connelly.



"Her department let down that child and she needed to be dismissed as director of children's services given that egregious failure.



"It would be extremely worrying if the incompetence of ministers and authorities responsible have left taxpayers with a big legal bill."



Former children's secretary Ed Balls was criticised in the Court of Appeal judgment for the way he summarily removed Ms Shoesmith from her post without giving her the chance to put her case.



Philip Henson, head of employment at City law firm Bargate Murray, said: "I am sure that Mr Balls will now realise that firing Ms Shoesmith live at a televised press conference back in 2008 was not such an erudite idea after all.



"Ms Shoesmith's case has a wider lesson for all employers of the need to ensure that they carry out a fair investigation and procedure, affording staff the opportunity to put their case forward, rather than pandering to public and media pressure and making a knee-jerk decision to fire members of staff.



"Although the Court of Appeal judges did not make a ruling on compensation, instead referring the case back to the High Court for 'further consideration', Ms Shoesmith is likely to receive compensation approaching, or hitting, the £1 million mark, taking into consideration reinstatement of her pension rights."



Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "This ruling will give a much-needed boost to social workers up and down the country who protect daily thousands of vulnerable children and adults.



"It should serve as a lesson that whipping up a campaign of vilification and hatred will never save a single child's life."



He added: "We as a society must accept that, if we are to place such enormous burdens on social workers and other child protection professionals, we must support them and make sure they have adequate resources.



"Social work teams continue to operate with high turnover, high vacancy rates and high caseloads. And the situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future with local authorities facing huge funding cuts."



Regulator Ofsted, which produced the damning report into Haringey Council's children's services which led to Ms Shoesmith's sacking, welcomed the Court of Appeal's ruling in its favour.



Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: "I am pleased that Ofsted has comprehensively won this case and that the original judicial review judgment in our favour has been upheld in every aspect on appeal.



"Ofsted carried out a robust inspection and came to a sound conclusion based on evidence. On any view, our inspection report was extremely critical and there has been no challenge to the finding that services for children in Haringey were inadequate.



"The fairness of our process and rigour of our inspection has now been confirmed through the scrutiny of not just one, but two court hearings."

Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green in Haringey, said Ms Shoesmith was by law responsible for failings in her department relating to the death of Baby P, now named as Peter Connelly.

Richard Wilson, leader of the Lib Dem opposition on Haringey Council, said: "The Children's Act 2004 clearly sets out lines of responsibility for failures to protect children. This was to ensure that never again could bucks be passed.



"People in Haringey and up and down the country, who saw how Haringey Council failed to protect Baby Peter, will find it hard to fathom how the council managed not to follow correct procedure.



"This is another blow in the process of restoring confidence and competence in Haringey's children's services."



Claude Knights, director of children's charity Kidscape, said: "It must never be forgotten that at the centre of these legal altercations lies a child who died in appalling circumstances, and who was failed by a large number of agencies.

"Sadly safeguarding systems in too many regions continue to reveal flaws that leave vulnerable children at risk of grave harm.



"This should never have been about scapegoats and witch hunts, but about ensuring that the individuals who lead our vital children's services can deliver the recommendations set out in every public inquiry report published since and before the tragic case of Victoria Climbie."



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy