“I don’t do blame.. you cannot stop the death of children” – S. Shoesmith, BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, 28 May 2011
If I was a friend of, or adviser to, Sharon Shoesmith, I’d strongly urge her to stop giving interviews. Radio interviews in particular. Every time she opens her mouth, millions of listeners are antagonised and enraged. Her former colleagues and other professionals who’ve worked with her say she’s a highly capable manager with a strong commitment to children’s services. On the radio, she comes over as spectacularly arrogant, self-righteous and lacking in even a scintilla of self-awareness. Her extraordinary performance on this morning’s Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme is not the first time she’s displayed an alarming lack of humility, remorse or compassion. She put on a similar performance when interviewed on ‘Women’s Hour’ in February 2009, much to the consternation of Mumsnet commenters at the time.
This outstandingly unsympathetic woman emerged from her victory in the appeal court yesterday with a disgusting display of triumphalism (“‘I’m over the moon. Absolutely thrilled’) and only a passing mention of her “sorrow” at the death of baby Peter Connelly, thrown in almost as an afterthought.
Having got all that off my chest, I have to say that there is no doubt that Shoesmith was unfairly dismissed. Prior to her dismissal she was denied due process. No disciplinary procedure was followed. Her dismissal was announced on TV by Ed Balls, thus forcing the hand of her actual employers, Haringay Council. As Lord Justice Kay said after the judgement, “This is not to say that I consider Ms Shoesmith to be blameless or that I have a view as to the extent of her or anyone else’s blameworthiness. That is not the business of this court…Whatever her shortcomings may have been (and, I repeat, I cannot say), she was entitled to be treated lawfully and fairly and not simply and summarily scapegoated.”
In other words, this was what employment lawyers call a “Polkey” victory, after the landmark case of Polkey v A.E. Dayton Services Ltd, which established the principle that a failure to carry out a reasonable and proper procedure alone can constitute an unfair dismissal, even if carrying out a proper procedure would have made no difference to the final outcome.
Ms Shoesmith will not be re-instated, but is now widely expected to receive arrears of her £133,000 pa salary from the date of her dismissal in December 2008, plus pension contributions for that period.
I’m not familiar with Court of Appeal compensation rules, but at an employment tribunal, a case won purely on the “Polkey” principle, where the tribunal believes the dismissal would have happened even had a proper procedure been followed, will result in massively reduced compensation: usually down to six weeks’ pay (the time, it is estimated, that a proper procedure would have taken).
As Ms Shoesmith has stated that it was “justice not money” that lay behind her legal challenge, perhaps she’ll now publicly announce that she is willing to accept compensation of, say, £15,346 plus pension contributions?
than 50 injuries on Shoesmith’s watch. But she refuses to accept responsibiliy.