Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sharon Shoesmith - Reported compensation

"Accountability" is not synonymous with "Heads must roll" - per Maurice Kay LJ in R (Shoesmith) v Ofsted and others [2011] RECA Civ 642 at para 66.

In December 2008, Sharon Shoesmith was dismissed as Director of Children's Services for Haringey Council.  This followed the tragic death of "Baby P" on 3rd August 2007 for which his mother (Tracey Connelly) and two males (Steven Barker and Jason Owen) were found criminally liable under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 section 5.  (Note: section 5 has been subsequently amended with effect from 2nd July 2012 but the original enactment applied at the time). 

Shoesmith claimed compensation for unfair dismissal and was eventually successful in the Court of Appeal.  The judgment is here and see Law and Lawyers 30th May 2011 for discussion. 

An article published by The Telegraph on 23rd July 2014 indicates
that Shoesmith received £679,452 as a result of agreement between her lawyers and those acting for Haringey.  It is also reported that Haringey spent £196,000 defending the case.

The concluding remarks of Maurice Kay LJ in the Court of Appeal should be noted by all politicians:

"I cannot leave this case without commenting on the way in which Ms Shoesmith was treated. In another case, Sedley LJ was moved to say:

"It seems that the making of a public sacrifice to deflect press and public obloquy, which is what happened to the appellant, remains an accepted expedient of public administration in this country. (Gibb v Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust [2010] EWCA Civ 678, (at paragraph 42)"

In my view, it is also what happened in the present case.  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 is 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."

Previous blogposts relating to the case

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