Judge rules Shoesmith sacking was lawful

Sharon Shoesmith has lost her application for a judicial review of her sacking as director of children’s services in Haringey after the Baby P case.

Sharon Shoesmith has lost her application for a judicial review of her sacking as director of children’s services in Haringey after the Baby P case.

However, speaking at the High Court today, Justice Foskett said he had reached his conclusions with a “lurking sense of unease”.

The judge said he had decided that the best place for determining whether Shoesmith had been treated unfairly by Haringey was in an employment tribunal.

He rejected as “too simplistic” Shoesmith’s claim that children’s secretary Ed Balls had decided to make her a scapegoat following the media frenzy around the Baby P case.

For full analysis of the case click here

Following the case Balls commissioned Ofsted to do an emergency joint area review (JAR) and, based on the findings, ordered her to be sacked. Shoesmith claimed she was allowed no opportunity to correct or contradict the JAR, which was against “natural justice”.

The judge said: “I can find no sustainable basis for the suggestion that there was political or other improper interference in the Ofsted inspection or the report-writing process by or on behalf of the Secretary of State. Had there been any such interference, it would have put a very different complexion on the case”.

However, he said  he did not think “any party will truly look back at how matters were handled in this case with complete satsifaction”.

Justice Foskett found that Balls and Ofsted had acted fairly despite the fact that Shoesmith had not had a “full and fair” hearing.

However, he said he was still not happy that he had received a full explanation for Ofsted’s failure to disclose all the evidence it possessed on the case to begin with. Foskett said he intended to take the matter up with the Treasury Solicitor.

Ofsted belatedly “found” and submitted further documents relating to the JAR report after the hearing was closed. Drafts of the report, which Ofsted originally claimed did not exist, appeared to show the JAR had been rewritten numerous times leaving out critical recommendations of other agencies including the police. Ofsted has stated that such redrafting of reports is “standard practice”.

The judge pointed out that the focus of his review was purely related to the fairness of the procedures adopted by Ofsted, Balls and Haringey.

“The focus is not on the merits of the decisions made, nor upon whether the Ofsted inspectors were correct in their assessment of Haringey at the time, nor on whether the final form of the report was unfairly strengthened during the report writing stage. Equally, it is not a judgment which decides whether the claimant is or is not entitled to compensation for the loss of her job.

“All these things, and more, need to be understood to put the judgment in its proper context. Second, although there is a narrow focus to what I have had to decide, there are one or two wider implications that may impact on child safeguarding arrangements more generally. Those implications derive from what might be termed loosely the “security of tenure” of someone who becomes the DCS of a particular area.”

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Full analysis of the Shoesmith judgement

Sharon Shoesmith disappointed by High Court verdict

Ed Balls’ interference in Shoesmith case heavily criticised

Baby P social workers face GSCC misconduct charges

What next for Sharon Shoesmith?

What do you think of the Shoesmith decision

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