Baby P: senior Haringey officials suspended

Two senior Haringey children’s officials have been suspended and three social workers placed under review following a damning inspection.

Clive Preece, head of children in need and safeguarding services and Cecilia Hitchen, deputy director of children’s services have been suspended, while the posts of children’s services team manager Gillie Christou and social workers Maria Ward and Sylvia Henry are under review.

The news comes after the removal of children’s services director Sharon Shoesmith from her post by children’s secretary Ed Balls.

Haringey Council leader George Meehan and cabinet member for children and young people Liz Santry resigned after Balls revealed the “devastating” findings of the emergency inspection ordered after the Baby P verdict yesterday.

Poor practices

The review by Ofsted and police and health inspectorates criticised poor child protection practices and concluded there had been insufficient management oversight.

Sharon Shoesmith, like Cecilia Hitchens, was part of a new child service management team in 2005 brought in after death of Victoria Climbié in the borough.

Maria Ward was allocated as Baby P’s social worker in February 2007. In June the same year, she sent him to hospital after seeing marks on his face. But she later missed injuries to his face and hands after chocolate was smeared over him to conceal them.

During the trial of Baby P’s mother’s boyfriend and lodger, Gillie Christou told the court she had agreed that the baby should stay with his mother.

Sylvia Henry’s witness statement to the trial, reported by Panorama last month, said she had wanted to take Baby P into care and had found him a foster placement, but was instructed by her manager Clive Preece that the child should go home.

Henry, a former practice manager at the Tottenham child and family centre, was previously allocated Victoria Climbie’s case and gave evidence to the Laming inquiry into her death.


Haringey Council’s chief executive Dr Ita O’Donovan issued an apology yesterday after inspectors issued their report.

“I want to say how truly sorry I am that this young child has lost his life. I know we did not do enough to protect him and that is and going to be something I will never forget. There has been personal and collective anguish and sorrow from staff across the council,” she said.

Dr O’Donovan said Shoesmith was suspended “immediately” and that the legal process would be followed “as speedily as possible.”

She also confirmed that several other staff had been suspended pending an investigation. The position of other staff will be reviewed by Hampshire children’s director John Coughlan, who has replaced Shoesmith until the end of this month.

Dr O’Donovan said Haringey’s local safeguarding children board would consider the inspection report.

Deputy leader of the council Lorna Reith said the council took “full responsibility for all the failings” identified by inspectors.

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