The High Court’s decision to order The Sun newspaper to pay damages to a social worker involved in the Baby P case has been hailed a “victory” for social workers.
Sylvia Henry was one of several Haringey social workers targeted by The Sun following the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly (Baby P) in 2007.
She will receive an apology and substantial damages from the newspaper, following the ruling today.
The Sun‘s solicitor said in court: “The Sun fully accepts that the claimant played no part and bears no responsibility for the circumstances surrounding the death of Peter Connelly and that she did her best for him. The Sun apologises to Ms Henry.”
Nushra Mansuri, a social worker and professional officer for BASW – the College of Social Work, said the verdict was a victory for social workers in the fight against “witch-hunts spearheaded by national newspapers” and should signal “an end to trial by media”.
“It is time to end the trial by media. If today’s verdict signals the end to this sort of vitriolic and unhelpful reporting then that would be best for everyone.
“Sadly, child abuse cases will still happen but it is important that we learn from them and understand that instigating public witch-hunts does not help anyone,” she said.
Henry was reportedly named in 80 of The Sun’s articles, including 11 front page reports, as part of its Justice for Baby P campaign. She was also named in a petition organised by the newspaper and signed by 1.6m people.
Mansuri said: “It is good to campaign against child abuse, but The Sun’s campaign felt very unhealthy and very frightening. We would expect responsible reporting of a child death such as Baby P’s, but we never saw balanced, objective reporting in this campaign.
“From a newspaper with such a large number of readers this was very disappointing,” she said.
She added that the newspaper’s campaign had left social workers feeling “vulnerable and demoralised”. “A campaign to protect children that undermines the professionals working on the frontline to protect children is completely self-defeating; a real own goal,” she said.
The Sun has agreed to publish in its print and online editions an “unreserved apology to Ms Henry for the distress that she has been caused”, Henry’s solicitor confirmed in court.
Baby P social worker to receive damages from The Sun