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Haringey has no case to answer for dismissing Shoesmith, court hears

PUBLISHED: 19:34 13 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:29 07 September 2010

Charlotte Newton HARINGEY Council has no case to answer for dismissing Sharon Shoesmith, the former director of children s services, because it was legally bound to do so after receiving directions from Ed Balls, the High Court heard. During a four day ju

Charlotte Newton

HARINGEY Council has no case to answer for dismissing Sharon Shoesmith, the former director of children's services, because it was legally bound to do so after receiving directions from Ed Balls, the High Court heard.

During a four day judicial review, Ms Shoesmith, 56, claimed that she was unfairly sacked from her £133,000 post because Mr Balls, the school's secretary allowed himself to be influenced by a "media storm and witch-hunt" over the Baby Peter case.

The Secretary of State ordered the Joint Action Review (JAR) into Haringey's child protection services last November following the criminal trial over Baby Peter's death.

The 17-month-old child died in August 2007 after suffering horrific injuries at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen. All three are serving custodial sentences for causing or allowing Peter's death.

The little boy was on Haringey's child protection register and had been seen 60 times by health professionals, social workers and police. The case caused a national outrage when details of his death became public.

Mr Balls ordered inspectors to urgently review all of the agencies involved in child protection in Haringey.

A report which they published on December 1 rated Haringey's child protection services as "inadequate". It led to Mr Balls issuing a direction for Ms Shoesmith to be dismissed and John Coughlan to be appointed as the interim director of children's services.

Ms Shoesmith claims that not only did Mr Balls end her time at Haringey, but he ended her career by announcing in a televised press conference that she would be removed from her post.

The court heard that Ms Shoesmith and her daughters received death threats from members of the public at their home when media coverage of the case was at its most intense last year. She is still recovering from post traumatic stress which left her feeling suicidal.

But Ingrid Simler defence QC for Haringey Council, argued that the Town Hall had no case to answer for unfair dismissal because it was legally bound to follow Mr Balls' direction.

She said: "Haringey concluded that trust and confidence had been fundamentally breached following findings of the JAR (Joint Action Review). The claimant as director was personally accountable for failings in the Children and Young People's Services identified by the 2008 JAR."

Judge Mr Justice Foskett, said he would receive further submissions from Ms Shoesmith's lawyers tomorrow (Wednesday) in writing before he made his decision.

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