London

Senior social worker praised Baby P's mother

Image caption Peter Connelly died three years ago after many month of abuse at the hands of three people

A senior social worker said the mother of abused toddler Baby Peter was "lovely" and "coping well", an employment tribunal has heard.

Sue Gilmore also implied there was little chance that 17-month-old Peter Connelly would be taken from his mother Tracey and put into care.

Social workers Gillie Christou and Maria Ward claim Haringey Council sacked them unfairly over the case.

Ms Ward alleges Ms Gilmore's attitude swayed her judgement.

Connelly, her lover Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen were jailed in May last year for causing or allowing Peter's death.

Ms Gilmore, a senior team manager in the social services department of Haringey Council in north London, was also accused of failing to pass on evidence that Tracey Connelly had a new boyfriend.

'Open and honest'

Ms Ward was Peter's nominated social worker from February 2007 until his death.

Ms Gilmore wrote a note on Peter's case file, which read: "I gave her [Connelly] feedback, saying that she had been very open and honest about difficult things and said I was impressed that she had coped so well with so many difficulties."

At the end of a video interview, Ms Gilmore said: "What does Maria have to do to show you we are not going to take [Peter] away?"

Image caption Maria Ward was Baby Peter's social worker

Ms Ward said in a witness statement that Ms Gilmore "was very favourably disposed towards Ms Connelly", which then influenced her own conduct.

She also described an occasion where Ms Gilmore publicly praised Peter's mother.

Ms Ward said: "She remarked in front of colleagues that I would not have any trouble with the Connelly family.

"She said, 'Maria has [been working with] such lovely parents - don't let her tell you she's having trouble with them'."

Ms Gilmore was also allegedly sympathetic towards Connelly when she learned of her son's death.

Ms Ward said: "She [Ms Gilmore] said Peter had been poorly, could have died for health reasons, or it was a cot death."

Ms Ward, 40, and her team manager Mrs Christou, 52, claim they were unfairly sacked in April last year following the public outcry about the child's death.

Suspicious of denial

The tribunal was also told that Ms Ward believed Connelly was on her own, not in a relationship.

But it emerged last year that Connelly told Ms Gilmore of a new love in March 2007 in a filmed interview, which was not shown to Ms Ward at the time.

She said: "Had I been told about this, I am sure that I would have become suspicious of Ms Connelly's denial to me that she had a boyfriend."

Ms Ward alleged that Ms Gilmour was not someone "to be challenged lightly".

Mrs Christou, meanwhile, said both she and Ms Ward had been sacked to appease the tabloids and politicians.

She said: "Haringey were wrong to make us scapegoats and to add our names to the list of Tracey Connelly's victims."

The pair have admitted failing to ensure Peter was visited regularly enough, failing to keep adequate records and losing contact with him at one stage in a General Social Care Council hearing.

The council decided they should not be sacked, instead suspending Ms Ward for two months and Mrs Christou for four months for misconduct.

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