Baby P chief loses sacking appeal

LONDON (Reuters) - The former head of children’s services at Haringey Council lost a High Court appeal on Friday against her sacking over the death of Baby P.

Former head of children's services at Haringey Council Sharon Shoesmith leaves the High Court in London October 7, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Sharon Shoesmith had sought a judicial review of her dismissal without compensation by Haringey in December 2008 after a damning report from Oftsed inspectors lambasted the management of the London authority’s child protection services.

The council had acted a week after Schools Secretary Ed Balls removed her from the 130,000 pound-a-year post.

Shoesmith became the focus of public anger after initially defending her department over failings that led to the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly -- at first only known as Baby P.

The toddler died in August 2007 after suffering more than 40 injuries during a campaign of abuse at his home, despite being on Haringey’s “at risk” register and having had 60 visits from care and health workers.

At the High Court, Shoesmith’s lawyer said Balls had sacked her without allowing her a fair hearing and claimed that Ofsted inspectors rewrote the report under political pressure to make it more critical.

The court was told Shoesmith was “shocked” by her “unlawful and unfair” treatment and that she had received death threats.

But Mr Justice Foskett rejected accusations that her removal by Balls was procedurally flawed, unfair and unlawful, the Press Association reported.

He concluded the decision by Balls “cannot be impugned on the grounds of unfairness” and rejected the suggestion there had been political interference in the Ofsted inspection.

Peter’s mother Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend and his brother Jason were convicted in November 2008 of causing or allowing the death of a child.

After the court case, Shoesmith said the council had provided “extensive” help to the family and that no one from her department would be sacked over the case.

Lawyers for Balls argued Shoesmith was ultimately responsible for the “shambolic, disturbing state of affairs” in Haringey’s children’s services department.

Shoesmith’s legal team said they would consider whether to challenge the High Court’s decision.

“We will be giving careful consideration to the judgement, which runs to some 200 pages, and considering whether there are grounds for an appeal,” her lawyers said in a statement.

Balls said the judge had ruled that he had acted in a fair and proper way, and said he would make the same decision again.

“My motivation at the time was to make sure children in Haringey were safe and also to maintain confidence in child protection around the country in what were very unique circumstances,” he told BBC TV.

“It is clear from the judgement that my motivations were the right ones and I acted in a proper and right way.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison