Lynne Featherstone MP commenting on Sharon Shoesmith's appeal

Commenting on the judgment by the Court of Appeal allowing the appeal of Sharon Shoesmith against a High Court ruling that the manner of her dismissal after the death of Baby Peter was lawful, Lynne Featherstone MP said:

“It would seem that Sharon Shoesmith was unlawfully dismissed because of procedural issues. My understanding is that the court is not saying that she should or should not have lost her job, but that proper procedures to dismiss her were not followed. However, that is a matter for Haringey Council and Ed Balls.

“The Children’s Act 2004, which followed the tragic death of Victoria Climbie and Lord Laming’s report, set in law that the Head of Children’s Services should be responsible for failings in their service. Sharon Shoesmith was Head of Children’s Services.”
 
Cllr Richard Wilson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Haringey Council, adds:
 
“The Children’s Act 2004 clearly sets out lines of responsibility for failures to protect children. This was to ensure that never again could bucks be passed.
 
“People in Haringey and up and down the country who saw how Haringey Council failed to protect Baby Peter, will find it hard to fathom how the Council managed not to follow correct procedure. This is another blow in the process of restoring confidence and competence in Haringey’s Children’s Service.”

0 thoughts on “Lynne Featherstone MP commenting on Sharon Shoesmith's appeal

  1. It might have been more gracious of you to apologise to the Sharon Shoosmith and for your part in whipping up the frenzy. Perhaps you could also apologise to her daughter as well. You should have been a cool head recommending objectivity and carefulness in the finding of the relevant facts. Instead you took your lead from the mob and did your best to turn the heat up even higher. I would have a bit more respect for you if you took this opportunity to accept you were wrong.

  2. If you read what I said on all occasions you will find that what you state above is not the case.

    Ms Shoesmith was accountable under the Children’s Act of 2004 for children’s safeguarding. My understanding is that she brought the ‘frenzy’ on herself by her performance at the press conference she fronted at Haringey Council.

    My only interest is to make sure that lessons really are learned – and don’t forget – last time with Victoria Climbie – those in charge walked away leaving only the social worker at the end of the chain to take all the blame. Ms Shoesmith has appealed and won – on process. That has nothing to do with whether she should have lost her job or not.

    The fact remains that the OFSTED report was damning and she was in the responsible position.

  3. The fact remains that the OFSTEAD report was hurriedly commissioned and completed. It was a knee jerk reaction .

    The fact also remains thatthe savage cuts in public expenditure approved by your government means such tragedies are more likely to occur.

  4. Weren’t we all misled about the press conference at Haringey Council, with stories about graphs etc?

  5. Ms Featherstone

    I think your memory is failing you. The red-top newspapers were whipping up a feeding frenzy and Ms Shoesmith tried to sound a rational note. Your input contributed to this atmosphere. Contrary to your comments, the final Ofsted report (even after Ed Balls had done his best to make it more critical) did not point the finger at Ms Shoesmith – that is not the purpose of Ofsted reports (read the Court of Appeal judgment it will enlighten you).

    The point I made was this: the circumstances in which these issues were considered after the perpetrators of the crime were found guilty were the worst kind of scapegoating (the very worst) and, instead of recognising this and urging a measured and objective consideration of what happened and what should happen in the future, you took made a positive decision to raise the temperature even higher. By doing so you made your own negative contributions to the idea that the rule of law should apply to everyone and to undermine the social care profession that is now having such difficulties recruiting and keeping motivated staff.

  6. I agree with you Lynne. I believe that the Government may be appealing this to the Supreme Court and therefore we must await the outcome of this.

    It is necessary to refer to a little more of the factual background. I believe Ofsted identified serious concerns in relation to the safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey which needed to be addressed as a priority. I believe this may be the reason why Sharon’s appeal against OFSTED was dismissed.

  7. It may well be that the government does seek to appeal to the Supreme Court. First they need to get permission. However, if they do go to the Supreme Court the goverment is bound to fail. The Court of Appeal’s decision is plainly correct, is the unanimous decision of a very experienced panel of 3 judges (including Lord Neuberger the Master of the Rolls) and all the appeal to the Supreme Court will achieve is further embarassment for the government and a waste of public funds on legal costs. Read the Court of Appeal’s judgment for yourself and then come back and comment.

    The reason Ms Shoesmith’s appeal against Ofsted failed is that Ofsted had a very limited remit in very unusual circumstances but it is plain that they were not intending to produce a report that could be used as the basis of a finding that a particular individual had responsibility for the death of Peter Connolly. That is not what Ofsted does.

    Think about this: the Police, the medical professionals and the local authority lawyers appear to have had a much greater role in the “failures” to prevent the brutal murder of the child but, rather than address these issues you, the Mail, the Sun and all the other followers of the hunt have been whipping the crowd up to try to lynch Sharon Shoesmith. Do you really think the appropriate way to conduct yourself as an MP and, now, a junior minister is to pander to the red-tops, the mob in full flow and the idea that we should slaughter a scapegoat as appease the angry gods?

  8. I agree with you Lynne. I believe that the Government has decided to appeal to the Supreme Court given the constitutional issues at stake in respect to Ministers making decisions and these decisions being challenged by the courts. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the appeal or the outcome.

    Following the tragic death of ‘Baby P’, I believe that Ofsted was part of a multi-agency inspection team asked by the Secretary of State Ed Balls to review the child protection arrangements and safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey. It was a multi-agency of services which I believe inspected Haringey. The inspection – which was carried out by seven inspectors from Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary – evaluated the contribution made by relevant local agencies to ensure that children and young people are safe. It started on 13 November and was completed on 26 November 2008. These is reported by Ofsted.

    The inspection allegedly found there appeared to be insufficient strategic leadership and management oversight of safeguarding services by Haringey councillors and officers. They also alleged that there was managerial failure to ensure full compliance with the recommendations of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry (which reported in January 2003 following the death of Victoria Climbié, also in Haringey).

    I believe this may be the reason why Sharon’s appeal against OFSTED was dismissed. This suggest the Court upheld the findings of Ofsted. I am not in a position to question the independent findings of the learned judges.

    I accept the Court’s view that Haringey could have protected its position if it had served a contractual notice terminating Ms Shoesmith ‘s contract of employment, and it might have done so without prejudice to its contention that it was entitled to dismiss her summarily. It did not do so.

    I reject this view that somehow the Secretary of State’s decision to commission the Ofsted inspection or suspend Sharon Shoesmith was driven by media frenzy. This is too simplistic a stance.

  9. Mash

    You say

    “I reject this view that somehow the Secretary of State’s decision to commission the Ofsted inspection or suspend Sharon Shoesmith was driven by media frenzy. This is too simplistic a stance.”

    You are mixing up the commissioning of the report (which was perfectly justified) with the action that was taken once it was received. The Ofsted report did not provide evidence that could provide the foundation for saying Ms Shoesmith was responsible for either the death of Peter Connelly or some general malaise with Haringey’s children services. As you will be aware if you have read the Court of Appeal’s judgment, it was Ed Balls and his staff who made the jump that it was Ms Shoesmith’s fault and that she should be sacked as DCS and they did this, without putting any of the allegations to her and listening to her response, at a press conference.

    If you want to think about real findings of fact regarding the failure of services for children in London following the Victoria Climbie murder then you should look at the recently decided case of OOO & Others v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2011/1246.html). Strangely there has been no significant media coverage of this story. Instead the media (and Ms Featherstone) have concentrated on trying to shout down Ms Shoesmith and chunder on about spurious £500k compensation bonanzas.

    As to the prospect of the Supreme Court reversing the Court of Appeal in the Shoesmith matter any advice the government has received on this could briefly be stated as a snowball in hell’s chance.

  10. I agree with you Lynne. I believe that the Government has decided to appeal to the Supreme Court given the constitutional issues at stake in respect to Ministers making decisions and these decisions being challenged by the courts. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the appeal or the outcome.

    Following the tragic death of ‘Baby P’, I believe that Ofsted was part of a multi-agency inspection team asked by the Secretary of State Ed Balls to review the child protection arrangements and safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey. It was a multi-agency of services which I believe inspected Haringey. The inspection – which was carried out by seven inspectors from Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary – evaluated the contribution made by relevant local agencies to ensure that children and young people are safe. It started on 13 November and was completed on 26 November 2008. These is reported by Ofsted.

    The inspection allegedly found there appeared to be insufficient strategic leadership and management oversight of safeguarding services by Haringey councillors and officers. They also alleged that there was managerial failure to ensure full compliance with the recommendations of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry (which reported in January 2003 following the death of Victoria Climbié, also in Haringey).

    I believe this may be the reason why Sharon’s appeal against OFSTED was dismissed. This suggest the Court upheld the findings of Ofsted. I am not in a position to question the independent findings of the learned judges.

    I accept the Court’s view that Haringey could have protected its position if it had served a contractual notice terminating Ms Shoesmith ‘s contract of employment, and it might have done so without prejudice to its contention that it was entitled to dismiss her summarily. It did not do so.

    I reject this view that somehow the Secretary of State’s decision to commission the Ofsted inspection or suspend Sharon Shoesmith was driven by media frenzy. This is too simplistic a stance.

    I think my above points clarify all the issues.

  11. Any more comments now that permission for Haringey and the Secretary of State’s to appeal to the Supreme Court has been refused?

  12. Coming back, rather belatedly, to your comments above you said:

    “If you read what I said on all occasions you will find that what you state above is not the case. Ms Shoesmith was accountable under the Children’s Act of 2004 for children’s safeguarding. My understanding is that she brought the ‘frenzy’ on herself by her performance at the press conference she fronted at Haringey Council. My only interest is to make sure that lessons really are learned – and don’t forget – last time with Victoria Climbie – those in charge walked away leaving only the social worker at the end of the chain to take all the blame. Ms Shoesmith has appealed and won – on process. That has nothing to do with whether she should have lost her job or not.”

    I managed to find one of your earlier blogs (8 October 2009) to help me compare your memory of “your only interest” with my recollection of your comments.

    I was reassured to find that my memory seemed to be functioning better than yours. Firstly you said that “none of the furore in the media..is responsible for her sacking.” As everyone with any sense saw at the time (and as has now been damningly concluded by the Court of Appeal) that was a shockingly poor judgment on your part. It was precisely because of the furore in the press and David Cameron’s dreadful comments at PMQ that Ed Balls mistakenly felt compelled to take the illegal acts he took. It says little for your judgment that you thought otherwise.

    You then went on to blame Ms Shoesmith for bringing this on herself by “her attitude in the press conference Haringey Council held after the trial verdict that brought the media down on her like a ton of bricks. She did that to herself.” Again this shows little judgment on your part. In the face of an ignorant and venomous storm from the tabloids Ms Shoesmith tried to speak rationally but you preferred to side with the mob and criticised her for her “apparent arrogance” and then descended to rather juvenile and unseemly sarcasm about how Ms Shoesmith put on a display “to point out how brilliant her department was”.

    As if all of that was not bad enough you then went on to say that the reason “why Baby Peter died” was that “It was all about protecting Haringey’s reputation regardless of the real underlying situation.” So the reason Baby Peter died was not because he had the terrible misfortune to be born to an abusive mother who herself was born to an alcoholic and abusive mother and who lived with a slightly psychotic boyfriend and who, in the final two weeks of his poor godforsaken life shared a house with the seriously psychotic half-brother of his mother’s boyfriend. It was not because the Police, the lawyers and the doctor did not take the action that would have provided social services with the means to remove Baby Peter before he died. In the picture you painted at this time, the reason Baby Peter died was because Ms Shoesmith was just trying to protect “Haringey’s reputation regardless of the real underlying situation”. I have to say, that of all the malicious, awful and opportunistic things written by you this may be the worst.

    When you were (or, at least, ought to have been) chastened by some admirably forthright and accurate comments in response to your blog by Ms Shoesmith’s daughter, you had a chance to step back, think about the rashness and inappropriateness of your written comments. You might even have apologised for the part you had taken in the scapegoating. That was not, however, how you replied. Instead you simply threw up the now very blandly stated argument (much like the one from you on this thread) that : “My priority and my focus has always and only been to ensure that vulnerable children are better served in future in Haringey than they have been in the past.”

    Perhaps now after so many recent public revelations about the true nature of the tabloid beast you might want to think about the consequences of helping build up the frenzy of the hounds. Who know, in future you may find your role changes from the whipper-in to that of the fox and with your record regarding the non-existent Progesterex rape drug debate there is already material out there to show you in a humiliating light.