Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Sharon Shoesmith ~ reported to have received £600,000 compensation ~ has anything been learned?

Sharon Shoesmith was Director of Children Services in Haringey at the time of the death of Baby P.   It is reported that she has settled her claim against Haringey and is to receive some £600,000 in compensation - Daily Mail 29th October.  This follows on from a Court of Appeal (Civil Division) decision in May 2011 discussed at Sharon Shoesmith wins her appeal (27th May 2011).and, in greater detail, at Accountability is not synonymous with Heads must Roll (30th May 2011)

In the Court of Appeal, Maurice Kay LJ said - '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.'

In my post of 30th May 2011 I noted - 'In the present financial climate, the government would do well to ensure that Child Protection Services are fully resourced and, if the turnover of social work staff still exists, to take whatever steps are practicable to prevent it.  Continuity in case management is as important as objective oversight of the work of individual social workers.  Both are essential ingredients.'

Regrettably, since 2011, many (if not all) local authorities have had to cut back on social service provision due to financial restrictions and there appears to be considerable turnover of staff.

In May 2011, I also noted - 'It seems that the present government is concerned to restrict judicial review.  Here we are in dangerous territory.  Surely, the most important constitutional point is that Ministers must act in accordance with law.  Even at the time of the Baby-P case, the Secretary of State had far reaching statutory powers but the problem was the manner in which he exercised them.  He failed to ensure that Shoesmith was given an adequate opportunity to make representations about his proposed courses of action.  Here is the fundamental unfairness which it is the purpose of judicial review to rectify.'

It almost goes without saying that the Ministry of Justice has recently imposed restrictions on applications for judicial review and more is likely.  Their latest consultation closes on 1st November - Judicial Review - further proposals - Sir Stephen Sedley (8th September 2013)

I will leave it to you to decide whether anything has been truly learned from this tragic situation.

Earlier this month, the Parole Board decided that Baby Peter's mother could be released from imprisonment - BBC News London 9th October.

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