An employment tribunal’s decision to support Haringey’s dismissal of the social work manager involved in the Baby Peter case was flawed, the tribunal appeal heard today.
Richard O’Dair, the lawyer for former Haringey team manager Gillie Christou, told today’s hearing that the tribunal had made “a clear error of law” by not considering the reasons why the council took the additional disciplinary action that led to her sacking.
He noted how Christou had already gone through a disciplinary procedure following the death of Peter Connelly, which resulted in a written warning.
He argued that the council’s disciplinary policies effectively formed a contract between Christou and Haringey, since both sides had to agree to the process.
Because no new evidence of concealing information had emerged, it was wrong of the council to institute the second disciplinary action that caused her dismissal, he told the appeal.
“It simply cannot be right,” said O’Dair, for employers to issue a written warning only to change their minds months later.
“The facts were all the same, it was just taking a different view,” he said.
He suggested the political pressure on Haringey only required the council to investigate staffing issues and did not require the dismissal of specific employees.
He added that since Haringey is a corporate body, it is bound by the actions of its authorised agents, and that it would be odd if employers could simply change their management and then change their mind on these matters.
The appeal tribunal also heard from O’Dair that the long delay between the two disciplinary hearings was unfair on Christou, because the details were not as fresh in her mind as they were at the first disciplinary hearing.
Haringey’s lawyer has yet to respond.
The employment tribunal appeal hearing continues.
Baby P social workers given leave to appeal against sackings