Baby Peter sacking: Sharon Shoesmith ‘denied justice’
A council officer who presided over the department which failed to help abused toddler Baby Peter is fighting her sacking at the Court of Appeal.
Sharon Shoesmith was sacked as the £130,000-a-year director of children’s services at Haringey Council, north London, in December 2008.
Her department failed to save Peter Connelly, who died aged 17 months after sustained abuse.
Ms Shoesmith argues she was denied a fair hearing over her sacking.
The High Court previously found decisions made by Ofsted, former children’s secretary Ed Balls and Haringey Council which led to the sacking were lawful.
But Ms Shoesmith’s counsel James Maurici said there was “buck passing” between the three which had led to her being denied natural justice.
He said Ms Shoesmith was a highly successful public servant who had been praised in a 2006 Ofsted report for “strong and dynamic leadership”.
Mr Maurici added that she now faced ruin.
He said: “While trapped in her flat by the media, she had the extreme misfortune to see on television the secretary of state Mr Ed Balls at a live press conference announce that he was directing that Haringey remove her from her post ‘with immediate effect’.”
Mr Maurici claimed the politician acted on the “damning findings” of an Ofsted report into the death that Ms Shoesmith had not been given the chance to respond to.
During the previous hearing, High Court judge Mr Justice Foskett said: “I do not think that any fair-minded person could think that this was a satisfactory state of affairs.”
Mr Maurici said that statement “lies at the heart of this appeal”.
He said the comment supports the claim Ms Shoesmith was treated unfairly and the judge was therefore wrong to refuse her previous appeal.
Mr Maurici added that the decisions made by the authorities were “not made fairly and lawfully, and therefore had no legal effect”.
But lawyers for the government say Mr Balls’s actions were carefully thought through and rational.
Peter Connelly was found dead with more than 50 injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken back.
His mother, her partner and a lodger were all jailed for causing or allowing his death.
Peter had been seen by health and social services professionals 60 times in the eight months before he died.