Toddler death briefing by Salford children’s boss Jill Baker was ‘foolish’, tribunal told

A childrens’ services boss was ‘foolish’ for telling the media no one would be disciplined after a toddler’s death, an employment tribunal was told.

Jill Baker, 56, was in charge of schools and social work in Salford before she was dismissed for gross misconduct in December 2009. She is now suing for unfair and wrongful dismissal at an employment tribunal.

But a senior council leader said the children’s services manager should have checked with human resources experts before speaking out.

Mrs Baker lost her job following the death of two-year-old Demi Leigh Mahon, who was murdered by her 15-year-old babysitter in July 2008.

But an independent report found the toddler had been let down by social workers.

After the damning report, Mrs Baker told the M.E.N. and other media that no disciplinary action would be taken.

It prompted the council’s chief executive, Barbara Spicer, to review the decision.

Giving evidence at the hearing, the council’s deputy leader, David Lancaster said Mrs Baker had made a poor decision.

He said: “You have to take human resources’ advice on the procedures that are taking place and, if you don’t do it, in my opinion you’re foolish.”

Mr Lancaster, who had chaired a panel that heard Mrs Baker’s appeal against her dismissal, said he did not agree that ‘all hell had broken loose’ in the media and that he had been ‘under pressure’.

But he said: “For a chief officer to say on TV that there was no disciplinary action without getting the required advice is an area of concern.”

Mrs Baker had previously told the tribunal she felt she was dismissed because senior councillors wanted a ‘scapegoat’ in response to media pressure following Demi Leigh’s death.

Council chief executive Barbara Spicer had said she ‘did not accept’ that argument.