The two social workers fired after the death of Peter Connelly made a “serious error of judgement” when they lost track of the boy for 12 days after his mother claimed they were away visiting a sick uncle, the Employment Appeal Tribunal heard today.
Defending Haringey’s dismissal of Maria Ward, Connelly’s social worker, and her manager Gillie Christou on the second and final day of the hearing, the council’s lawyer Bruce Carr said the first employment tribunal was right to support the London borough’s action.
He said more could have been done to check on the whereabouts of Connelly such as making an unannounced visit to his home, which he described as a “missed opportunity”.
Richard O’Dair, the lawyer for Ward and Christou, said the failure to make an unannounced visit may have been a lapse of common sense but did not amount to gross misconduct. “The social worker didn’t know where the mother was, if that was gross misconduct, what was she supposed to do?”
Carr also challenged O’Dair’s argument that the original tribunal’s decision should be overturned because the two had already gone through one disciplinary process over the matter when Haringey initiated the disciplinary that led to their sacking.
Carr said it would be wrong to treat the first disciplinary procedure as a contract between employer and employee and thereby make the second disciplinary invalid. “An internal discussion process does not have the status of a court or tribunal or even arbitration,” he said.
He also argued that the original employment tribunal had properly considered the argument that the gap between the two disciplinary actions was unfair on the pair and a further argument that they were fired because of media and political pressure.
The tribunal has reserved its judgement while it considers its decision.
Dismissal of Baby P social work manager was flawed, tribunal hears