How Ed Balls And The Sun Made Sharon Shoesmith A Scapegoat Over Baby P
The Department for Education and Haringey Council will now contest the ruling in the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. This will mean that more money from the pot is spent fighting a case that should never have gone to court.
The Telegraph misses the point when it askes for the opinion of Emma Boon, campaign director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance, and gets it:
“Sharon Shoesmith presided over a catastrophically dysfunctional organisation that ultimately played a part in the tragic death of Peter Connelly. Her department let down that child and she needed to be dismissed as director of children’s services given that egregious failure. It would be extremely worrying if the incompetence of ministers and authorities responsible have left taxpayers with a big legal bill.”
Pathetic. The woman was tried by media. The Sun was the chief culprit. It made a landgrab for Baby P’s grave, sticking its plaque on an approximation of where the child’s remains were scattered.
Tragic Baby P was finally given the dignity he deserves yesterday – a headstone from The Sun bearing his name, Peter Connelly. We erected the memorial at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery in North London after a two-year wait.
It campaigned for social workers who worked on the case to be sacked. The then children’s secretary was Ed Balls. He locked onto the narrative and “as a dad” presented himself as the voice of the decent masses. He removed Shoesmith from her post without giving her the chance to put her case. He sacked her on the telly. That was pandering to the mob and the Sun. It was wrong.
The BBC reports:
Sharon Shoesmith was once part of the solution to Haringey’s problems. As its £130,000-a-year children’s boss, she was praised for improving the borough’s schools.
But the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly in August 2007 plunged the authority into chaos and unleashed a tide of press and public anger.
On 1 December 2008, she switched on the television to watch the then Children’s Secretary Ed Balls describe her as “unfit for office” and announce that he was directing Haringey Council to sack her. She had no warning.
Now, after a two-and-a-half year legal battle, she has had that decision declared unlawful and reversed by the Court of Appeal.
Haringey Council must provide an appropriate settlement for her and she will be eligible for substantial compensation for loss of earnings and a career ruined.
You might think Balls a pillock. The Sun is unimpressed with justice:
SHAMELESS Sharon Shoesmith may pocket up to £1m in compensation – after winning an appeal over her sacking for the Baby P scandal.
The woman is not shamelss. She said at the time of the case that she felt suicidal. The Sun goes on:
Baby P – Peter Connelly – was 17 months old when he died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother Tracey Connelly, her lover Steven Barker and their lodger, Barker’s brother Jason Owen. The child had suffered 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over the final eight months of his life.
A series of reviews identified missed opportunities when officials could have saved his life if they had acted properly on the warning signs in front of them.
But despite this, Shoesmith today won a High Court appeal against her sacking.
All true. But why did she lose her job on the telly? Answer:
The sacking followed a 1.6MILLION signature Sun petition demanding Shoesmith lose her job.
Sun readers were invited to sign this petition:
“I believe that ALL the social workers involved in the case of baby P, including Sharon Shoesmith, Maria Ward, Sylvia Henry and Gillie Christou should be sacked and never allowed to work with vulnerable children again….
“…I also demand that the doctor involved with Baby P, Sabah Al Zayyat, should lose her job and not be allowed to treat the public again.”
Ed Balls trilled:
“People are asking how these despicable acts of evil can happen in this day and age and in Haringey of all places.”
Yeah, the bucolic splendour of one of the most impoverished, dirty, depressing places in the entire country. If there, then anywhere…
But the judges do not have an agenda:
The judges emphasised that it was not for them “to express any view on whether Ms Shoesmith should or should not have been removed from office” or on the extent to which she was “blameworthy”, if blameworthy at all.
“Our task has been the more limited one of deciding whether those whose decisions affected her (were) following procedures complying with the law’s requirements of fairness.”
Well, those are the edited bits the Sun likes. What was actually said was:
Lord Justice Kay, giving the substantive ruling, said Shoesmith had been sacrificed to deflect public outrage about the Baby P case.
He ruled: “Those involved in areas such as social work and healthcare are particularly vulnerable to such treatment.
“This is not to say that I consider Ms Shoesmith to be blameless or that I have a view as to the extent of her or anyone else’s blameworthiness. That is not the business of this court.
“However, it’s our task to adjudicate upon the application and fairness of procedures adopted by public authorities when legitimate causes for concern arise, as they plainly did in this case. Whatever her shortcomings may have been – and, I repeat, I cannot say – she was entitled to be treated lawfully and fairly and not simply and summarily scapegoated.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis is right to say:
“This ruling will give a much-needed boost to social workers up and down the country who protect daily thousands of vulnerable children and adults. It should serve as a lesson that whipping up a campaign of vilification and hatred will never save a single child’s life.”
Balls made social workers the enemy. He made the job harder.
Balls denies that. He issues a statement:
“Today’s Appeal Court decision will be greeted with surprise across the country. I strongly disagree with this judgment, which I believe is not in the interests of either child protection or responsible ministerial decision-making based on independent and objective advice. It is right and constitutionally very important that the Secretary of State has decided to appeal this latest judgment in the Supreme Court.”
“A little boy, Peter, was cruelly abused by his mother and her partner and died from his injuries after great suffering. He was badly let down by all those who were responsible for his safety. No amount of legal wrangling can take away that suffering or remove the stain of that failure.
“My duty and responsibility was to protect the safety of children in Haringey, and to maintain public confidence in child protection more widely.”
He did this by sacking someone who knew the system, and its obvious failings.
“I judged, on the basis of that independent report and on the advice of departmental lawyers, that the right and responsible course of action was for me to use my statutory powers to remove the director of children’s services from her position with immediate effect.”
He did it to win hearts and minds. And votes…
COURTS Baby 134204
PLEASE NOTE MANDATORY CREDIT REQUIRED ITV NEWS. NO CROPPING OF LOGO PERMITTED. Undated ITV News handout photo of Baby P. A court order banning publication of the name of Baby P's mother and boyfriend expires at 2359 today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 10, 2009. See PA story COURTS Baby. Photo credit should read: ITV News/PA Wire