As reported widely in the press, the Court of Appeal has allowed Sharon Shoesmith’s appeal against the Secretary of State and Haringey London Borough Council relating to judicial review of the decision to dismiss her in the light of the death of Baby P. Her appeal against OFSTED failed.
With regard to the then Secretary of State, Ed Balls, Ms Shoesmith claimed that he had not afforded Ms Shoesmith with any procedural safeguards before directing that Haringey should dismiss her. Further, that he impermissibly took into account a petition raised by the Sun newspaper that she should be sacked. She also claimed that the High Court had erred when it held that even if there had been no procedural unfairness, the Secretary of State would still have reached the same decision.
Against Haringey, Ms Shoesmith argued that Haringey’s treatment of her was amenable to judicial review and that the judicial review application should be allowed irrespective of any alternative remedy in the Employment Tribunal.
The Court of Appeal held that in relation to the Secretary of State, Ms Shoesmith’s ability to comment was limited and she should have been given full opportunity to comment and answer the Ofsted allegations. The procedure leading up to the directions given by the Secretary of State was therefore unfair. However, the Court held that it was not necessarily unfair for the Secretary of State to have taken the Sun’s petition into account. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the High Court that, had Ms Shoesmith made representations, it would have made no difference.
With regard to Haringey, the Court of Appeal held that the High Court’s finding that proceedings in the Employment Tribunal would afford Ms Shoesmith a better remedy was flawed. The relief offered by judicial review could include a quashing of the decision to dismiss her and the dismissal would be null and void.
The Court of Appeal therefore ruled that Ms Shoesmith’s application for judicial review should succeed and she should be entitled to a declaration that her dismissal was unlawful as well as to compensation.
This is unlikely to be the end of the Shoesmith appeals as it has been indicated that the government and Haringey intend to appeal on the basis that due process had been followed.