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Baby Peter social workers lose unfair dismissal claim

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Two of the social workers who were sacked following the horrific death of baby Peter Connelly have lost their claim for unfair dismissal against Haringey Council, it has emerged.

The council fired Gillie Christou and Maria Ward in April 2009 for "gross misconduct".

At last month's tribunal hearing, however, the social workers claimed they were sacked solely because of "political and media pressure" over Peter's death and as such their dismissal was unfair. "Heads had to roll -- regardless, I suggest, of the evidence," said their legal counsel Nick Toms.

Baby Peter died in August 2007, aged seventeen months, as a result of terrible abuse at the hands of his mother Tracey Connolly, her neo-Nazi boyfriend Steven Barker, and Barker's brother Jason Owen.

In the eight months before his death, he received 60 visits from Haringey social workers and was placed on the council's "at-risk" child protection register.

Ms Ward was Peter's nominated social worker at Haringey Council from February 2007 until his death, and Mrs Christou was her team manager.

The employment tribunal panel ruled that Haringey Council acted reasonably in dismissing them because of serious failings in their care of the toddler.

In a written judgement, the panel concluded: "There is no doubt in our minds that, whilst there may have been media pressure and political pressure and those involved had in mind the tragic death of Peter Connelly, the facts and beliefs which led them to dismiss the claimants' appeals against their dismissals were, in Ms Ward's case, the failure to maintain the required visiting frequency and, in both cases, the poor professional judgment (as the appeal panels expressed it) demonstrated by both claimants.

"It is not in our view the case that those involved in the appeal panels bowed to the pressure to which we have referred."

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