Saturday, 24 April 2010

A lurking sense of unease

In EH v London Borough of |Greenwich [2010] EWCA Civ 344 - Lord Justice Wall (now President of the Family Division) - engaged in trenchant criticism of social services in Greenwich (and perhaps, indirectly, on a wider basis).   Wall LJ stated that he was not engaging in "gratuitous criticism" of social workers but stated that the local authority in the case had acted in a way which was inimical to the ethos of the Children Act 1989 and wholly contrary to good practice in care proceedings.  It is reported that the British Association of Social Workers have expressed "astonishment" at the criticism - see Family Law Week.

As the "fall-out" from the Baby -P case continues, it was with a "lurking sense of unease" that Foskett J decided against Sharon Shoesmith - see the lengthy full judgment here.  Of course, it is right that dismissal has to be an option where officials are, after fair and proper investigation, found wanting in the performance of their duties.  However, the sense of unease ought to be widely shared by fair-minded people who will see a great deal for concern in the processes used to dismiss Shoesmith and also in the subsequent handling of the case.  It will be no surprise if this "sense of unease" manifests itself by way of the unintended consequence of fewer people taking up child protection work.  [See Baby P- just what is going on?].  Scrupulous fairness must be followed or that unintended consequence may become a certainty.

See "Sharon Shoesmith and the crisis in child protection" - Patrick Butler - The Guardian 23rd April 2010.  See also Family Law Week.


  1. And despite the inevitable misinformed reports that "Baby Peter sacking ruled lawful", the judge clearly seems to be indicating that it was far from lawful but that it is for an employment tribunal to award a remedy and not the High Court.

  2. Tom, I agree that there are "misinformed" reports. The case was a "Judicial Review". Foskett J makes it clear that he was concerned with "the fairness or otherwise of the procedures adopted by Ofsted, the Secretary of State and Haringey. The focus is NOT on the merits of the decisions reached. {"Process" is precisely what judicial review is about}.

    Foskett J also made it clear that the Employment tribunal was the best place for deciding whether Shoesmith had been treated unfairly by Haringey over her dismissal. The Tribunal is able to look at all aspects of the case. Foskett J's view was that the procedures adopted by Haringey did not have the appearance of fairness. {With respect, it is hard to disagree}. However, as Foskett J pointed out, his view on that does not bind the tribunal.