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Sharon Shoesmith's Judicial Review hearing ends

Date:9 OCT 2009

The former Director of Children's Services for Haringey Council, Sharon Shoesmith, was in the High Court this week seeking a judicial review against Ofsted, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Haringey Council for her dismissal last December in the wake of the Baby Peter tragedy.

Ms Shoesmith's legal team contend that the Joint Area Review report by Ofsted and her subsequent dismissal totally disregarded the rules of natural justice and the statutory arrangements made under s20(5) of the Children Act 2004. They claim that the report was published and submitted to the Secretary of State without first giving Ms Shoesmith any opportunity to respond.

They also argue that the Secretary of State, Ed Balls, went beyond his powers when he removed Ms Shoesmith from her post on 1 December 2008 and that he was influenced by media pressure. Haringey Council formally dismissed her a week later.

She claims her career was ruined and she was left penniless and at times contemplating suicide as a result of her treatment.

The High Court heard evidence at the hearing yesterday that she was informed of the "very significant professional failings" in her department well before she was dismissed.

Ofsted inspectors were "shocked" by what they found when they carried out an inspection.

Ofsted inspector Heather Brown said in a statement before the court: "When I began the inspection, I was expecting and hoping to find that the case of Baby P was essentially an aberration. What we found was shocking, even for the highly experienced team that worked on the inspection."

Baby Peter was 17-months-old and on the at-risk register when he died at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger in August 2007.