Sharon Shoesmith was Haringey’s Director of Children Services until her dismissal on 9 December 2008, following investigations into the death of “Baby P” on 3 August 2007.
The Court of Appeal’s judgment was published on 27 May. The Court upheld Sharon Shoesmith’s contention that her dismissal was null and void. This was because the Secretary of State’s (Ed Ball’s) direction to Haringey appointing a new Director of Children Services and Haringey’s dismissal process were fatally flawed. The result is that Sharon Shoesmith has not been dismissed and is entitled to salary and pension until such time as she is lawfully dismissed.
What can public authorities learn from this debacle?
- Dismissal of office holders is amenable to public law remedies, as well as Employment Tribunal claims.
- Do not announce a dismissal, as Haringey’s Chief Executive did, in advance of any disciplinary process.
- Do lead witness evidence, during dismissal and appeal hearings, to support the authority’s allegations, making it possible for the panel to make a decision on the basis of cogent evidence for the authority.
- If an officer claims that a dismissal is unlawful, give him or her a limited period to apply for judicial review, before completing the disciplinary process.