Baby P social workers lose appeal against their sacking

Maria Ward and Gillie Christou have lost their employment tribunal appeal

Two social workers who were sacked by Haringey council following the death of Baby Peter have lost their appeal against their dismissal.

Maria Ward, Peter Connelly’s social worker and her manager, Gillie Christou, appealed against an employment tribunal, which in 2010 found they were fairly sacked by the authority.

The tribunal found Haringey acted reasonably in sacking the workers over their involvement in the high-profile tragedy.

But today, the pair learnt that the employment tribunal’s decision to support Haringey’s dismissal had been upheld.

Ward and Christou are now expected to seek permission to take their case to the Court of Appeal, where a landmark ruling in May 2011 found former Haringey children’s services director Sharon Shoesmith was unfairly dismissed following the child’s death.

Speaking after a short hearing today at the employment tribunal in central London, the pair’s solicitor, Riz Majid, said: “Maria Ward and Gillie Christou are both disappointed by the result.

“They will be studying the judgement carefully with a view to going to the Court of Appeal.”

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said the case should “strike fear into the heart of every social worker”.

“When social workers make serious mistakes, they should face the appropriate sanctions, but no-one should lose sight of the fact they are working in an extremely pressurised system, expected to predict every harmful situation, while meeting the ever growing demands of a target-lead profession,” he said.

“At the time of Peter Connolly’s death, Haringey council’s systems and management were under-resourced, and staff were overburdened and not supported as they should be.

“Sadly, social workers in Haringey knew the environment they were working in was inappropriate but they did not raise the alarm in the way the public would have hoped.”

He added that social workers should be “supported and applauded for the job they do, not be personally exposed and thrown to the lions when mistakes are inevitably made”.

Peter Connelly died in August 2007 when he was 17 months old. His mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and their lodger Jason Owens were found guilty in 2009 of causing or allowing his death.

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