Post by nickd (Mylegal) on May 28, 2011 7:17:23 GMT
Prime Minister Cameron is urging the Government to take the Sharon Shoesmith (baby P) case to the supreme court following the judgment she obtained in the appeal court over the lawfulness of her dismissal.
But in doing so, would he risk coming to Ed Balls' defence?
Back in December 2008, Cameron expressed his dismay over how Shoesmith was suspended rather than sacked.
Here's how it was reported at the time...
"The leader of the Opposition expressed outrage that Sharon Shoesmith, the former head of children's services at Haringey council, is being paid £2,000 per week from the public purse despite a devastating report which highlighted her department's chaotic handling of child welfare cases.
Employment law experts say it is likely to take weeks before Haringey can complete a lengthy disciplinary procedure which would allow it to dismiss Mrs Shoesmith, who will be entitled to a gold-plated final salary pension and who may seek a pay-off.
The council had suspended Mrs Shoesmith from her £100,000-a-year post after the Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, invoked rarely-used powers to order her removal following the publication of a damning report into the council's failure to protect Baby P."
Shoesmith was of course sacked and a high court judgment later ruled the sacking to be lawful, Shoesmith appealed and the Court of appeal has only just overturned the earlier high court judgment. Shoesmith has expressed her dissatisfaction at Ed Balls, Children's minister at the time, who believes the recent Court of appeal decision was wrong and defends his action to sack her.
Here's how Ed Ball's sees it....
" Former Children's Secretary Ed Balls has defended his decision to sack Sharon Shoesmith after the Court of Appeal ruled he acted unlawfully when dismissing her as director of children's services in Haringey.
Balls said he strongly disagreed with the decision, which overruled a High Court judgment made in April 2010 that the former Secretary of State and Haringey Council acted lawfully by sacking her in the aftermath of the Peter Connelly case.
In a statement, he said: "Today’s Appeal Court decision will be greeted with surprise across the country. I strongly disagree with this judgment, which I believe is not in the interests of either child protection or responsible ministerial decision-making based on independent and objective advice. It is right and constitutionally very important that the Secretary of State has decided to appeal this latest judgment in the Supreme Court."
Balls said that the death of Peter had affected millions of people across the country. "A little boy, Peter, was cruelly abused by his mother and her partner and died from his injuries after great suffering," he said. "He was badly let down by all those who were responsible for his safety. No amount of legal wrangling can take away that suffering or remove the stain of that failure.
"My duty and responsibility was to protect the safety of children in Haringey, and to maintain public confidence in child protection more widely."
He added that an initial report complied into the case "catalogued catastrophic management failures on such a devastating scale" that the leader of the council and the lead member for children’s services both decided to resign.
He added: "I judged, on the basis of that independent report and on the advice of departmental lawyers, that the right and responsible course of action was for me to use my statutory powers to remove the director of children’s services from her position with immediate effect."
Balls said that by putting new leadership in Haringey and commissioning and implementing the Laming report and the Social Work Taskforce he had strived to strengthen child protection arrangements.
"Ministers need to be able to exercise their legal duties and make judgments in the public interest based on independent analysis and advice," Balls added. "That is what I did and I am concerned that this judgment will make it harder for ministers to do so in future.""
Shoesmith says, in bringing her action (as expressed through the BBC this morning) "she was motivated by justice not money" -she stands to gain an award of up half a million pounds. Shoesmith says in taking this action - 'she doesn't do blame'
So it seems we have a division between the Government and the judiciary. Ministers see it as their job to make decisions in the public interest and yet the judiciary see it that it is for them to make decisions based upon the law.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, is it the courts or government ministers who should be making decisions in cases like this?
It'll be interesting to see whether Cameron does take this to the supreme Court, especially if in doing so - he'd effectively be coming to Ed Balls' defence. I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether Cameron's prepared to stick to his guns over the role ministers play in the decision-making process or whether he'll ditch them, because he'd effectively be helping a member of the opposition government out?
I wonder which way Cameron will swing?
In the wider context, isn't this increasingly all about moving towards a situation where there's a lack of clarity and misalignment between those decisions made in Court according to law and those decisions which are made in Parliament according to policy?
One thing is for certain, the increasing move towards removing access to justice by limiting representation alongside the State's increasing desire to intefere in the judical process does nothing to improve a litigant's prospect of getting a decision which is correct in law.
Ultimately, the Court of appeal has ruled that Shoesmith was dismissed unfairly and didn't have an opportuity to defend the case against her as an individual. Does this mean that every time the Courts make a decision which seems to be morally wrong and not in the wider public interest, ministers should have the power to intervene and make decisions which potentially overide those made in court. Is it for the State or the court to decide?
Surely, it's for Parliament for make the law and it's for the Courts to apply it?
Rather sadly, there have been several Baby Peters over the years - I don't see Balls calling for anyone's heads over those cases? Is it only the newsworthy/vote winning cases he is remotely bothered about? Or only the ones involving cute white kids?