Saturday, 28 May 2011

Baby P, Sharon Shoesmith & Ed Balls mistake.

The death of Baby P was a tragedy and it rightly horrified the public at large. Whenever any child dies from abuse it is sickening but the levels of abuse that the poor baby in this case suffered seemed particularly worse because of the failure of systems and procedures that allowed it to happen when it's clear the authorises were aware that abuse was most likely taking place.

When a case like this occurs it is natural to look for someone to blame. In this instance, that person was Sharon Shoesmith. After an internal audit was deemed inadequate, an external inquiry was commissioned and this inquiry delivered a damning verdict on the management of Child Services at Harringey Council, of which Shoesmith was Director in charge. It's fair to assume from that Shoesmith was in danger of losing her job and she duly did. Unfortunately, the then Secretary of State, Ed Balls fired her summarily and, as has now been proven, without affording Shoesmith her right to due process.

This allowed Shoesmith a footing on the moral high-ground which she never really should have had. No matter the 'crime' everyone in this country is entitled to the full protection of the law and Shoesmith was perfectly entitled to fight her case.

The real problem though is that by sacking her in this way, Ed Balls gave the story another perspective that it didn't need and could ill afford. When the focus of this case should have been on the failure to protect Baby P it was drawn away somewhat to what is essentially an employment law case. I imagine Ed Balls thought what he was doing was the right thing, and in many ways it was, but I also imagine he had one eye fixed on the clamour for a scapegoat.

Therein lies the danger of wanting someone's head on a platter. In their eagerness to give us that, our leaders will overlook the long term dangers of doing so.

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