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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk