London

Baby Peter social worker 'had to move house'

  • 19 February 2013
  • From the section London
Maria Ward pictured in 2010
Maria Ward was Baby Peter's nominated social worker

One of Baby Peter's social workers had to move house when the case led to a "hysterical media outcry", the Court of Appeal has heard.

Maria Ward, Peter Connelly's social worker at Haringey Council in north London, and Gillie Christou, her manager, are appealing against their sackings.

Peter Connelly was 17 months old when he died in 2007 following abuse.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled against the social workers last year.

'Unfairly sacked'

Ms Ward was called a "murderer" by members of the public following an outcry "calling for heads to roll", said Karon Monaghan QC, representing both women.

The women say they were unfairly sacked in response to the outcry after the baby was found dead with more than 50 injuries, despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over eight months.

Peter's mother Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker, and his brother Jason Owen were jailed in May 2009 for causing or allowing the child's death.

Ms Monaghan told Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice McCombe that Ms Ward had to permanently move home and "was advised to disguise herself".

The barrister told the court: "She had members of the public and press outside her house with members of the public calling her a murderer.

"Mrs Christou was subjected to similar, albeit less severe harassment."

Appeals dismissed

A Watford employment tribunal concluded in 2010 that the local authority acted reasonably in dismissing them because of serious failings in their care of the toddler.

The women then challenged that ruling at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in central London, but their appeals were dismissed.

Ms Ward and Mrs Christou were sacked after an investigation which discovered there was a period in mid-2007 when they did not know where the child was.

Sharon Shoesmith, the Haringey children's services director who won a landmark Court of Appeal ruling that she was unfairly sacked in the Baby P case, was present in court for the hearing in support of the two women.

The appeals brought by Ms Ward and Mrs Christou are opposed by Haringey Council. The hearing continues.

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