Sharon Shoesmith given leave to appeal dismissal

Sharon Shoesmith is free to appeal the ruling over her sacking as the head of children’s services at Haringey council following the Baby Peter affair.

In April 2010, Mr Justice Foskett rejected Shoesmith’s claim for a judicial review of her dismissal but in a ruling published on 31 August, he gave her permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal. He also reduced the claims of costs against her from £350,000 to a total of £15,000.

Shoesmith was sacked by Ed Balls, education secretary at the time, after a damning Ofsted report highlighted leadership failings in the child protection department in Haringey.

Foskett said he stood by his original judgment but, given the wider public interest issues, Shoesmith should be given permission to appeal.

“It is by no means fanciful that the Court of Appeal may differ from my view,” said Foskett.

The judge took into account Shoesmith’s treatment by both Ed Balls and Haringey Council during her sacking while considering the claims for costs against her. He slashed claims for costs from the former education secretary from £140,000 to £25,000 due to the abrasive manner in which he had removed her. In December 2008, Balls announced her removal at a televised press conference and urged Haringey Council to sack her without compensation.

Haringey council asked the judge to award £90,000 costs against Shoesmith, but Foskett criticised them for the way they sacked Shoesmith and said that the council’s procedures did not give “the appearance of fairness”. He ordered it to pay Shoesmith £10,000.

Foskett said: “When someone perceives that he or she has been treated unfairly by those in power, so much the greater is the desire for redress and vindication… It seems to me to be wholly unreal for me to ignore that kind of factor in the overall analysis of what drove the need for this litigation.”

In the ruling, Foskett also criticised Ofsted for failing to produce thousands of pages of documents relating to the case until the 11th hour of the original judicial review hearing, causing delays, and he threw out its claim for £115,000 costs against Shoesmith.

He said: “It is entirely open to a court to deprive a party of costs that it might otherwise be entitled to receive because of its conduct within the litigation… In my judgment, this is a paradigm case for doing so.”

Baby Peter was killed by his mother, her partner and a lodger in August 2007, despite more than 60 visits from health and social service professionals in the eight months prior to his death.

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