Court of Appeal rules Sharon Shoesmith`s dismissal was procedurally unfair
27 May 2011
Ms Shoesmith, the former Director of Children`s services at Haringey Council who was sacked after the death of 17 month old Baby P, had challenged a High Court ruling that had cleared former Children`s Secretary Ed Balls and the local authority of acting unlawfully when she was dismissed.
In her appeal, Ms Shoesmith had asked the appeal court to rule that her sacking was so legally flawed as to be null and void. Her lawyers argued that she was the victim of "a flagrant breach of natural justice" as she was driven from her £133,000-a-year post by a "media witch-hunt and political pressure".
The three Court of Appeal judges said they were allowing Ms Shoesmith`s appeal against Mr. Balls because "the Secretary of State did not afford Ms Shoesmith the opportunity to put her case". "In short, she was denied the elementary fairness which the law requires". They added, "we rejected a submission on behalf of the Secretary of State that the situation was too urgent to permit the adoption of a fairer procedure". "Nor did we feel able to accept that the adoption of a fair procedure would inevitably have led to the same outcome."
This case clearly illustrates how principles of natural justice and fairness must always be upheld when dismissing or disciplining, no matter how serious the facts of the case or how obvious the guilt may appear. The basic human right to a fair hearing should therefore never be compromised.
The issue of what ‘remedy`, Ms Shoesmith is entitled to is yet to be decided, as the case has been remitted to the High Court for further consideration on this point.
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