Statement by Ed Balls MP on today’s Appeal Court judgement

Following the publication of today’s Appeal Court judgement Ed Balls MP, the former Children’s Secretary, said:

“Today’s Appeal Court decision will be greeted with surprise across the country. I strongly disagree with this judgement, which I believe is not in the interests of either child protection or responsible ministerial decision-making based on independent and objective advice. It is right and constitutionally very important that the Secretary of State has decided to appeal this latest judgement in the Supreme Court.

“Tragically, today’s judgement cannot change the facts. A little boy, Baby Peter, was cruelly abused by his mother and her partner and died from his injuries after great suffering. He was badly let down by all those who were responsible for his safety. His death personally affected many millions of people across the country who could not believe he suffered for so long without help from the services who were supposed to keep him safe. No amount of legal wrangling can take away that suffering or remove the stain of that failure.

“My duty and responsibility was to protect the safety of children in Haringey, and to maintain public confidence in child protection more widely. Nevertheless my response to the huge torrent of public outrage was not to rush to judgement, but instead to commission a report from the independent inspectors into the management of children’s services in Haringey.

“That report, when it was presented to me, catalogued catastrophic management failures on such a devastating scale that the leader of the Council and the lead member for Children’s services felt the need to resign. I judged, on the basis of that independent report – and on the advice of departmental officials and lawyers – that the right and responsible course of action was for me to use my statutory powers to remove the Director of Children’s Services from her position with immediate effect.

“My judgement was made on the basis of the independent inspectors’ report – and that report alone. It was that report that enabled me to make a fair and objective judgement. My actions on receiving that report were, at all times, guided by detailed advice from department experts and lawyers on the proper and fair way to proceed. It was my responsibility, as Secretary of State, and on the basis of that independent report, to do what was necessary to protect the interests of children in Haringey and protect wider public confidence in child protection. That is why I acted as I did.

“And by putting in place new leadership in Haringey, and by commissioning and implementing the Laming Report and the Social Work Taskforce, I also strove to strengthen arrangements in child protection in that borough and across the country.

“Having thought long and hard about this decision over the last two years – and having read the Appeal Court judgement today – I know that faced with the same circumstances I would make the same decisions again.

“In our democracy there is a proper and essential role for the judiciary in ensuring that the law is respected, and the process of decision-making is within the law. A year ago last April, following an exhaustive judicial review, the High Court Judge found that my decision to remove Sharon Shoesmith from the post of Director of Children’s Services in Haringey was lawful and that in directing her removal and replacement I acted fairly and properly. So it is very surprising and disappointing that the Appeal Court has taken a contrary view.

“Ministers need to be able to exercise their legal duties and make judgements in the public interest based on independent analysis and advice. That is what I did – and I am concerned that this judgement will make it harder for ministers to do so in future. That is why it is constitutionally very important that the Secretary of State has decided to appeal this judgement.”

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Posted May 27th, 2011 by Ed's team

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