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Sharon Shoesmith pay-off: politicians to blame

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So exactly how much has been handed in compensation to Sharon Shoesmith, Director of Children’s Services at Haringey when Baby P died? And why was it so much? The answer lies in the complex legal issues – but certainly Haringey’s refusal to sack Shoesmith with a lawful procedure ramped up the pay-out as well as legal costs.

BBC’s Newsnight was quick to withdraw it’s claim that the payment was £600,000, saying within half an hour or so of broadcasting it that that was a “total” figure and that what she would actually receive would be rather less (presumably after her legal costs). If Haringey had not insisted it would pay her nothing, it would have been less still – as little as £35,000.

The legal situation is complicated, not least because Shoesmith chose to pursue a judicial review against the then Secretary of State Ed Balls and Haringey Council for her summary “sacking by TV” rather than a tribunal case. Her dismissal was announced at a live press conference on 1 December 2008 after a damning Ofsted report into 17-month-old Peter Connelly’s death in 2007 and Balls’s direction that she should be replaced. Shoesmith found out about it as a result of that broadcast.

The Court of Appeal in 2011 accepted that Balls’ direction was unlawful and hence so was the dismissal by Haringey, even though the council was acting on the Secretary of State’s order.

The court’s finding, though, was not a finding of “unfair dismissal” as would have been available before an Employment Tribunal nor one of “wrongful dismissal” – dismissal contrary to contractual terms, actionable through the civil courts. Read the rest of this entry

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