Baby Peter pair disciplinary probe 'flawed'‎

Sharon Shoesmith
Image caption Sharon Shoesmith was sacked in December 2008

Two social workers involved in the care of Baby Peter escaped the sack after a "deeply flawed" disciplinary process, an employment tribunal has heard.

An inquiry overseen by then head of Haringey Council's children's services, Sharon Shoesmith, found Gillie Christou and Maria Ward should not be sacked.

But the pair claim they were later unfairly dismissed amid public outcry about the death of Peter Connelly.

Baby Peter died aged 17 months in Tottenham, north London, in 2007.

In May 2009, Peter's mother Tracey Connelly, Steven Barker and Barker's brother, Jason Owen, were jailed at the Old Bailey for causing or allowing Peter's death.

'Gross misconduct'

Ms Ward, 40, was Peter Connelly's nominated social worker and Mrs Christou, 52, was her team manager.

They were fired by Haringey Council for "gross misconduct" after a second investigation found they committed serious failings in protecting the vulnerable child.

Their mistakes were only exposed after Ms Shoesmith was herself dismissed over the tragedy in December 2008, the tribunal was told.

The pair both received written warnings after undergoing internal disciplinary proceedings under Ms Shoesmith's command in May 2008.

But Stuart Young, an Assistant Chief Executive at Haringey Council, said that graver failings they made in Peter's care were known to senior managers at this time.

"This process was one that was closely managed by Ms Shoesmith," he said in a witness statement.

Mr Young led Haringey's second inquiry into Mrs Christou and Ms Ward's conduct in Peter's case, which resulted in their sacking in April 2009.

'Insufficient' challenge

The investigation found that Ms Ward accepted the word of Peter's mother, Tracey Connelly, after the toddler's child minder reported that he had a bruise on his chin, the tribunal heard.

Mr Young said in his statement: "Ms Ward accepted the explanation for the bruise given by Tracey Connelly, Peter's mother, without challenge.

"The issue here was an insufficient level of challenge made by Ms Ward to a situation which should have been of more concern."

Nick Toms, counsel for Ms Ward and Mrs Christou, alleged that the local authority sacked the social workers in response to political and media pressure.

"Heads had to roll - regardless, I suggest, of the evidence," he said.

Mr Young replied: "That's not an assertion that I would agree with."

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