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Sharon Shoesmith launches judicial review

Date:11 MAR 2009

Judicial review proceedings have been issued on behalf of Sharon Shoesmith, the former Director of Children's Services for Haringey Council, against Ofsted, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Haringey Council.

On Friday, Ms Shoesmith also lodged a claim for unfair dismissal against the local authority with the Watford employment tribunal. The 56-year-old could receive up to £173,000 from the council.

Ms Shoesmith was dismissed over the Baby P tragedy without compensation in December after a damning report into her department's failings. In January she lost her internal appeal against her dismissal.

A statement by Tony Child, solicitor for Sharon Shoesmith, said that amongst other things, the proceedings contend that:

"1) the Joint Area Review report by Ofsted was unlawful:

"a. It was issued in disregard of the rules of natural justice and of the statutory arrangements made under s20(5) of the Children Act 2004;

"b. It was published and submitted to the Secretary of State without first giving Ms Shoesmith any opportunity to correct and/or contradict the findings.

"2) the purported directions made by the Secretary of State on 1 December 2008 were unlawful:

"a. They were beyond the powers of the Secretary of State, as set out by s497A (4B) of the Education Act 1996;

"b. They were made in breach of the principles of natural justice. Ms Shoesmith was not given an opportunity to correct and/or contradict the basis on which the Secretary of State took action;

"c. The Secretary of State was influenced by media pressure.

"3) the Council acted in breach of its own procedures and in fundamental breach of natural justice:

"a. It failed to carry out any investigation or to give Ms Shoesmith an opportunity to consider and contradict the material (if any) which may have supported the conclusions in the Joint Area Review. This was important as external and internal material indicated that Ms Shoesmith was extremely capable and was in charge of a service externally assessed as being 'good';

"b. It failed to grant Ms Shoesmith a meaningful appeal;

"c. The Council wrongly relied on the (unlawful) Joint Area Review and (unlawful) Directions by the Secretary of State."