Sharon Shoesmith, the director of Haringey’s children’s services at the time of the Baby P case, was sacked unfairly by education secretary Ed Balls and the council, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
But her appeal against the Ofsted report that led to her dismissal failed, with judges ruling it was done correctly.
The case will now go to the High Court to decide compensation.
Employment experts say Shoesmith is likely to receive compensation of about £1m.
Philip Henson, head of employment at City law firm Bargarte Murray, said although the appeal court judges had not made any ruling on compensation, “Shoesmith is likely to receive compensation approaching, or hitting, the £1m mark, taking into consideration reinstatement of her pension rights”.
He added that the ruling had a wider lesson for employers about the need to allow employees to put their case “rather than pander to public and media pressure and make a knee-jerk decision to fire staff”.
Shoesmith had appealed against the dismissal of her application for a judicial review of her sacking last year. She claimed she was never allowed to put her side of the story when Balls revoked her powers. Haringey then dismissed her, claiming Balls’s decision had given it no option.
The judges said Balls had not afforded Shoesmith the chance to put her case. They rejected the submission that the situation was too urgent to permit the adoption of a fairer procedure or that one would have led to the same outcome.
“We were unanimously of the view that Haringey’s procedures were tainted by unfairness,” said the judges.
“There are outstanding questions relating to the remedy which should be granted to Ms Shoesmith. There is no question of her returning to her position. That is conceded on her behalf. However, there are issues concerning compensation following her dismissal without notice and without any payment in lieu of notice.”
The judges made clear it was not their job to decide whether Shoesmith should have been removed from office or how blameworthy she was over the Baby P case.
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