Sharon Shoesmith, the social services boss sacked in the wake of the Baby P scandal could receive more than £1 million in compensation after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal against her unfair dismissal claim.
The Department for Education and Shoesmith’s former employer, Haringey Council, had challenged a landmark ruling made by the Court of Appeal in May, which branded her removal by former Children’s Secretary Ed Balls as “intrinsically unfair and unlawful” – a judgement that has now been upheld by the highest court in the land.
A spokesman for the Supreme Court said that the application for leave to appeal had been refused.
The ruling means that the former director of children’s services, who earned £133,000 a year as an employee of the Council, could be in line for compensation of more than £500,000 for lost pay and pension contributions dating back to her dismissal in December 2008. When taken together with the legal costs of the two-year case, the bill, which the government and Hariney will be liable for, is expected to exceed £1 million.
The Department of Education said that it was “very disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s decision and that it still believed it was “right in principle” to remove Shoesmith from her post.
“We believe that the Supreme Court should have heard this case as we believe there are questions of constitutional importance involved, beyond the specific question about whether Ed Balls should have had a meeting with Shoesmith before she was removed from her post,” it added.
She was sacked without compensation after inspection body Ofsted published a damning report into the death of 17-month old Baby P, which exposed failings in her department. But in so doing, the appeals court found that Balls and Haringey Council had acted too hastily and were “procedurally unfair” as they did not give Shoesmith a proper opportunity to make her case.
Her lawyers argued that she had been the victim of a “flagrant breach of natural justice” and that she was driven from her job by a mix of a media witch-hunt and political pressure. She has accepted that she cannot return to her former post and the Court of Appeal judges referred her case back to the High Court so that it can consider outstanding issues such as coming up with a compensation figure.