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
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own