Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Baby P social workers lose appeal

Gillie Christou and Maria Ward, two of Baby P's social workers, have lost an appeal against a tribunal ruling that they were sacked unfairly

Two of Baby P's social workers have lost an appeal against an employment tribunal ruling that they were fairly sacked in the wake of the public outcry over the toddler's death.

Maria Ward and Gillie Christou claim they were unjustly dismissed by Haringey Council in north London after 17-month-old Peter Connelly died nearly six years ago.

An employment tribunal concluded in 2010 that the council acted reasonably in dismissing the two women because of serious failings in their care of the child.

Ms Ward, Peter's nominated social worker from February 2007 until his death in August 2007, and Mrs Christou, her team manager, then unsuccessfully took their case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal before going to the Court of Appeal where, Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice McCombe rejected their arguments.

Peter had suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on an 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 Barker's brother, Jason Owen - were jailed in 2009 for causing or allowing the toddler's death.

Mrs Christou and Ms Ward were sacked after an investigation which discovered there was a period in mid-2007 when they did not know where the child was. Peter's mother claimed she had taken the little boy to visit her sick uncle in Cricklewood, north west London, despite being told to return home.

The pair's legal teams had claimed they suffered "double jeopardy" because they faced two Haringey misconduct panels looking at the same allegations against them.

The first simplified disciplinary procedure concluded that they only needed to receive written warnings, but fresh, more formal proceedings - after the criminal trial of those responsible for Peter's death - resulted in summary dismissal for gross misconduct.

In their ruling, the appeal judges dismissed arguments that the second process was barred because essentially the same charges were advanced with no fresh evidence, that it was an abuse of process to subject the pair to a second set of procedures, and that there was a failure to give any legitimate reason why it was fair to reopen the matter.

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