EXACTLY one year after the tragic death of Baby Peter was reported in the British press (see From Our Files on right) the case has returned to the headlines. Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) has admitted that it withheld crucial evidence during the inquiry into Baby Peter's death that led to the summary dismissal of Sharon Shoesmith who had been head of the Haringey Council children's services. Last month Ms Shoesmith started judicial review proceedings against Ofsted, Ed Balls, the Children's Minister, and Haringey Council, alleging that Mr Balls put pressure on the Council to sack her without compensation after a media campaign.
Mr Balls had relied on the Ofsted report on the case to form the judgment that Ms Shoesmith should be dismissed. During the hearing of the judicial review last month Ms Shoesmith's lawyers repeatedly asked for Ofsted's notes on the case and early drafts of the report, which they believed had been considerably altered in the final version, to be made available but were told they did not exist. However, they came to light almost by accident and after being told this the High Court judge has reopened the case so that many pages of notes, e-mails and draft reports can be examined. He has ordered Ofsted to give a full explanation of why the requests by Ms Shoesmith's lawyers for this documentation were ignored. Ofsted has already apologised for a serious and deeply regrettable error.