Sharon Shoesmith settles High Court claim against Haringey Council for £680,000

royal-courtsA former director of children’s services at a London council has settled her legal claims against her previous employer after she was sacked for gross misconduct in 2009.

Sharon Shoesmith, the former director of children’s services at Haringey Council, has reportedly settled her claim for judicial review against the Council the week before a hearing to determine damages as due to be held.

Ms Shoesmith’s legal claim arose after she was sacked by Ed Balls (the Secretary for Schools, Children and Families at the time) in 2009 over Haringey Council’s handling of the “Baby P” tragedy, where Peter Connelly (known as Baby P) died at the age of 17 months after suffering more than 50 injuries at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend in August 2007. Ms Shoesmith subsequently brought an application for judicial review against Haringey Council, arguing that the local authority had acted in breach of natural justice, or in excess of its powers, or otherwise unlawfully. The Court of Appeal found in Ms Shoesmith’s favour in May 2011 (judgment here), with the remedies hearing due to be held in October 2013. However, the case was reported as being settled in October 2013, with a settlement agreement reached between the parties. The case therefore did not progress to the remedies hearing, as previously planned.

Although the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential (as is normal with such matters), Haringey Council released accounts in July 2013 which showed that Ms Shoesmith’s claim was settled for £679,452. According to the council’s draft accounts for 2013-14, Ms Shoesmith settled her case for £377,266 in salary, fees and allowances; £217,266 as compensation for loss of office, and £84,819 in employer’s pension contributions.

It was further revealed in the accounts that Haringey Council had spent £196,000 on defending Ms Shoesmith’s claims. It is probable that a further term of the agreement between Ms Shoesmith and Haringey Council is that her legal costs will be paid by the Council, such an agreement being common between the parties in such matters.

According to the Telegraph, Ms Shoesmith has not commented on the figures relating to her settlement, save to state that “this is not a figure I recognise”. She told the BBC that the confidentiality clause in her settlement agreement prevented her from revealing the figures (although it is a moot point as to whether that confidentiality clause would now apply, given that the information is now in the public domain).

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This is an interesting and rare insight into a an employment law-related application for judicial review. As commented elsewhere, the terms of the settlement appear to be extremely favourable to Ms Shoesmith.”