Shoesmith challenges Ofsted, Haringey and Balls at High Court

Sharon Shoesmith is mounting a three-pronged High Court challenge against Ofsted, Haringey Council and children’s secretary Ed Balls, whom she is accusing of “unlawful” decision-making.

Her lawyers announced details of the three judicial reviews this afternoon, after it was revealed that Shoesmith was challenging Balls’s decision to remove her from post at the High Court and was taking Haringey to an employment tribunal over her sacking.

Tony Child, a solicitor from the Beachcroft law firm, said Ofsted and Balls had failed to give her the right of reply, following a scathing joint area review of safeguarding in Haringey, ordered by Balls following the Baby P trial.

“Media pressure”

Child, who described his client as “extremely capable”, said Ball’s decision to remove Shoesmith from her post, which he announced in front of the national media on 1 December 2008, was influenced by “media pressure” and not within his power.

When he removed Shoesmith, Balls explained he was invoking his powers under the Education Act 1996 in the light of the findings of the JAR, carried out by Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and the police inspectorate.

This identified a series of managerial failings in the local authority’s children’s services.

No opportunity for Shoesmith to respond

Child said Ofsted’s report was unlawful because it was not carried out under statutory arrangements contained in the Children Act 2004, and failed to give Shoesmith the opportunity to respond to the findings.

Shoesmith is also lodging a judicial review against the council for allegedly not following its own procedures in formally dismissing her on 8 December without compensation. Child said the council did not carry out its own investigation into Shoesmith’s conduct, nor did it grant her a “meaningful appeal”.

Baby P case

The children’s secretary ordered the emergency review in response to concerns over child protection in the borough following the outcry over the death of Baby P.

Two people were convicted of causing or allowing the 17-month-old boy to die in November last year. Baby P’s mother had already pleaded guilty to the charge.

Seen 60 times by agencies

During the trial, it emerged that the child was on the protection register and had been seen 60 times by agencies, including social workers from Haringey Council.

A spokesperson for Haringey Council said of Shoesmith’s challenge: “We will contest this vigorously.”

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