Education secretary Michael Gove is to appeal against today’s Court of Appeal ruling that Sharon Shoesmith was unfairly sacked as director of children’s services at Haringey following the Baby P court case.
The Department for Education said it had made an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Haringey Council is also appealing the decision.
A blog on The Spectator’s website quoted Whitehall sources saying that, although Gove recognised that “[former education secretary Ed] Balls blundered in the way he dismissed her, he also believes that there are important constitutional principles at stake in this case about how ministers make important and urgent decisions and what the role of the courts is in challenging such decisions”.
The blog says Gove wants the Supreme Court to consider these issues because of the huge importance of judicial reviews, which are used repeatedly by opponents of the government to try to stymie its agenda.
Meanwhile, Balls, whom the appeal court judges criticised for his unfair dismissal of Shoesmith, said the judgement was “not in the interests of either child protection or responsible ministerial decision-making based on independent and objective advice”.
He said his duty as education secretary had been to safeguard children in Haringey and maintain public confidence in child protection.
He insisted that his decision to sack Shoesmith was the “right and responsible course of action” after an independent report he commissioned catalogued “catastrophic management failures on a devastating scale” at Haringey’s children’s services.
“Having thought long and hard about this decision over the past two years – and having read the appeal court judgement today – I know that, faced with the same circumstances, I would make the same decisions again,” Balls said.
A spokesperson for Haringey Council said: “We are deeply disappointed by this judgement as we believe that we acted properly throughout the process. We stand by everything we have done. We are therefore seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
However, our focus will stay on ensuring the sustained and significant improvements to children’s safeguarding services, as recently evidenced by inspectors, remain on course.
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