The Court of Appeal has ruled that Haringey Council and the former Children's Secretary Ed Balls acted unlawfully in dismissing the Director of Children's Services at Haringey Council, Sharon Shoesmith, overturning the HIgh Court's refusal to grant her a judicial review of the decision.
Shoesmith's lawyers successfully argued that the process of her dismissal without compensation was legally flawed and that she was the victim of a “breach of natural justice”. Shoesmith said that the first she heard of her dismissal was when Ed Balls announced it on television.
The Court of Appeal judges Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Stanley Burnton ruled that the dismissal was unlawful because she had not been given the opportunity to put her case before being sacked. "We were unanimously of the view that Haringey's procedures were tainted by unfairness," the judges said.
Haringey Council spokesman said it was "deeply disappointed" by the judgement and stood by its decision to dismiss Shoesmith. Both it and the Department for Education said that they planned to appeal to the Supreme Court.
However, Shoesmith's appeal against Ofsted's report finding – on which Haringey and the Children's Secretary primarily based their decision to dismiss her - of "insufficient strategic leadership and management oversight" in her department was dismissed.
The head of Ofsted, Christine Gilbert said: “I am pleased that Ofsted has comprehensively won this case and that the original judicial review judgement in our favour has been upheld in every aspect on appeal. Ofsted carried out a robust inspection and came to a sound conclusion based on evidence. On any view, our inspection report was extremely critical and there has been no challenge to the finding that services for children in Haringey were inadequate. The fairness of our process and rigour of our inspection has now been confirmed through the scrutiny of not just one, but two court hearings.”
“The most important thing, of course, is that Haringey’s children’s services are now much improved as a result and that children are better protected.”
Sharon Shoesmith also claimed lost earnings and pension rights from Haringey, a matter which the the Court of Appeal said should be considered by another court.