Baby Peter case: Sharon Shoesmith agrees six-figure payout

Sharon Shoesmith
Image caption Ms Shoesmith's settlement is understood to be significantly less than the £1m she was seeking

The former head of Haringey children's services has agreed a six-figure payout for unfair dismissal, which could cost the council up to £600,000, BBC Newsnight understands.

In 2011, Sharon Shoesmith, who earned £133,000 a year, won a ruling that she was unfairly sacked after a damning report about the death of Baby Peter.

Peter Connelly, who was 17 months old, died in 2007 after months of abuse.

Former Children's Minister Tim Loughton said the payout "stinks".

The boy had 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.

Three people were jailed in 2009, including his mother.

The Court of Appeal concluded Ms Shoesmith had been "unfairly scapegoated" and her removal from office in December 2008 by the then Children's Secretary Ed Balls had been "intrinsically unfair and unlawful".


Now Haringey Council has reached an agreement over compensation with Ms Shoesmith.

One government source has told BBC Newsnight that the cost to Haringey Council could be as high as £600,000, although that figure reflects the total payment and Ms Shoesmith is expected to receive a lower sum.

The exact figure may not emerge as there are confidentiality clauses preventing its disclosure but it will be significantly short of the £1m figure it had been reported she was seeking.

But it would appear the package is more than the minimum suggested by senior judge Lord Neuberger in a 2011 ruling in the Court of Appeal. He suggested she was entitled to a minimum of three months' salary plus pensions contributions.

Three months' salary would have been £33,000.

A spokesman for Haringey Council said: "Following the decision of the Court of Appeal in favour of Ms Shoesmith, and the court's direction that the parties seek to resolve the issue of compensation, the London Borough of Haringey and Ms Shoesmith have reached a settlement in this case.

"The terms of the settlement are confidential. We are unable to comment further on this matter."

Mr Loughton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the payout became "inevitable" after the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Balls "had made a complete botched job of her dismissal".

But he added: "This is going to leave a really bad taste in taxpayers' mouths that a not insubstantial amount of public money is being used to pay off somebody who presided over a dysfunctional department in Haringey [where] a 17-month-old boy died in horrific circumstances.

"We are effectively rewarding failure and when you are appointed a director of children's services... the buck has to stop somewhere and somebody has to take responsibility, and you don't expect that person... to get a large cheque on the back of it as well."

'Gove furious'

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Media captionCharlotte Leslie MP: "Showing leadership means when something goes wrong... you take responsibility"

Lord Neuberger had suggested the Department for Education should contribute to any payout for Ms Shoesmith by her employer Haringey Council.

His judgement said: "It would be entirely appropriate for Haringey to seek a voluntary contribution from the secretary of state whose unlawful directions gave rise to the problems."

It is understood that the department will meet a proportion of the payout, the details of which were agreed by Haringey Council in the past few days, but an exact figure has yet to be agreed.

One source told Newsnight that Education Secretary Michael Gove was "furious" about the clause, believing it to be "indefensible".

Lawyers representing Haringey Council and Ms Shoesmith had been in lengthy discussions regarding a payout since the May 2011 ruling.

Ms Shoesmith had been due to return to court later this week, seeking a declaration that she remained employed by Haringey Council.

That action has now been dropped and the settlement reached between the two parties is understood to be a final one.

Peter Connelly'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.

Earlier this month it was reported that Connelly was due to be released from prison on parole.

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