Joan Smith: Shoesmith's humiliation is not justice. It's vengeance

Share
Related Topics

I know we're all supposed to hate boring old judges who want to stop us posting our witty, scabrous or downright furious observations on Twitter. It's freedom of expression, innit? But it's also just conceivable that the judiciary, on occasion, takes a longer and more measured view of controversial cases than the self-appointed tribunes of the people.

Such an event happened two days ago when the Court of Appeal in London ruled that the then children's secretary, Ed Balls, was wrong to announce that he was removing the Haringey children's services boss, Sharon Shoesmith, on live TV in 2008.

She had become a hate figure following the horrific death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, and Balls certainly appeared to be playing to the gallery when he declared her "not fit for office" at a press conference. In a damning judgment, the court decided last week that Shoesmith had been made a "public sacrifice" and took the extraordinary step of suggesting that it would be appropriate for Haringey Council to seek a "voluntary contribution" from Balls towards any compensation she might be awarded.

Shoesmith hadn't even seen a critical Ofsted report on her department or had an opportunity to defend herself. But a week later, her sacking was confirmed by Haringey. Last week the court upheld her appeal against the council as well, ruling that its procedures were "tainted by unfairness".

Let's be clear: what happened to "Baby P" was unspeakable. He was on Haringey's child protection register when he died at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her lover Steven Barker and Barker's brother, Jason Owen, in 2007. It was one of those shocking cases which raises questions about child protection procedures, but that doesn't mean the professionals involved lose their right to due process. Indeed, one of the consequences of Balls's conduct is that Shoesmith may be entitled to reinstatement of her pension rights, her salary since her sacking and compensation.

I'd much rather live in a world where public employees are given the chance to defend themselves at an impartial hearing, but it's also clear in this case that such a course of action would have been cheaper for taxpayers. Bizarrely, the Department for Education and Haringey Council announced on Friday that they would now take the case to the Supreme Court, racking up the costs even further.

I know Ofsted's report exposed failings in Shoesmith's department and she didn't succeed in her legal bid to have it quashed, even though it emerged at the High Court last year that the report had been "beefed up" at the request of Balls's department. He was a minister in a Labour government that took the much-criticised decision to merge child protection and education services, which meant that people whose experience was in education (like Shoesmith) were suddenly in charge of social work departments with huge case-loads.

Shoesmith's lawyers said in court that the impact of her dismissal and the hate campaign against her had been "catastrophic". She has been unable to work for two-and-a-half years, she's had suicidal thoughts and she's still hounded by the media. Even after the judgment, Balls and was unrepentant, while indignant commentators toured the TV studios, claiming to speak on behalf of the entire nation.

Not for me, they don't. I'm sickened by a public appetite for vengeance that will be satisfied only by this woman's total ruin and humiliation.



Joan Smith is Political Blonde: www.politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam