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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

02 AUG 2011

Supreme Court refuses permission to appeal Sharon Shoesmith case

By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor

Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court has refused the applications of the Secretary of State and Haringey Council for permission to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal that found the authority's former director of children's services, Sharon Shoesmith, was unlawfully dismissed.

In May the Court of Appeal, presided over by Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, allowed appeals by Ms Shoesmith against Ed Balls MP, former Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and against Haringey.

Ms Shoesmith was dismissed without compensation in December 2008 after a damning Ofsted report into her department's failings over the tragic death of the one-year-old Peter Connelly.

Ms Shoesmith lost judicial review proceedings against Ofsted, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Haringey Council.

Peter Connelly died in August 2007 at a time when he had been on the Child Protection Register within Haringey for approximately 8 months. The day after those responsible for Peter Connelly's death were convicted on 11 November 2008, the Secretary of State Ed Balls announced that Ofsted would be conducting an urgent inspection into the child safeguarding arrangements in Haringey. After the report was completed on 1 December 2008, Mr Balls used his powers under Education Act 1996 to remove Ms Shoesmith and her Deputy from their posts.

The Court of Appeal recorded that Ms Shoesmith was the holder of a statutory office who was "very highly thought of" in Haringey. The Court pointed out that "Accountability" is not synonymous with "Heads must Roll". The Court of Appeal recognised that the position of Director of Children's Services in Haringey was "very challenging", that there were "inevitable budget constraints" and that as Director Ms Shoesmith faced "the kinds of difficulty" which are commonplace in running a deprived  inner city local authority.

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