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Baby Peter social workers suspended

26 May 10 12:03 GMT

Two social workers have been suspended for misconduct in the case of Baby Peter, who died while on Haringey Council's child protection register.

Maria Ward was suspended for two months and Gillie Christou for four months by the General Social Care Council (GSCC).

The pair, who admitted failings, had already been suspended from practising for 16 months during the investigation.

Baby Peter was 17 months old when he died with more than 50 injuries, in north London in August 2007.

Haringey Council sacked Ms Ward and Ms Christou in April last year - both have since launched employment tribunal challenges against their dismissals.

At the GSCC hearing, Ms Ward and Ms Christou had accepted they did not ensure Baby Peter was visited enough, they lost contact with him for a time and did not keep adequate records.

Ms Ward was the boy's nominated social worker from February 2007 until his death, and Ms Christou was her team manager.

The GSCC ruled that the women should not be struck off the social care register.

GSCC committee chairman Jonathan Roberts said it had decided not only that "such a course was disproportionate to the facts admitted at this hearing", but also that such action would have been "to satisfy a perceived public demand for blame and punishment for a registrant who does not present a continuing risk".

"That would be wrong," he said.

Mr Roberts added that mitigating factors taken into account included the women's admissions of the allegations against them, their otherwise unblemished records, the staff shortages and excessive caseloads at the council at the time, and the fact that Baby Peter's mother was a "skilled and manipulative liar".

Tracey Connelly admitted causing or allowing her son's death. Her boyfriend, Steven Barker, and their lodger, Jason Owens, had been found guilty at the Old Bailey of the same charge.

Heavily criticised

Social workers, police and health professionals had made more than 60 visits to Baby Peter's home over a period of eight months.

His death was "an eminently avoidable tragedy", said Marios Lambis, counsel for the GSCC, who told the hearing that the social workers' efforts had been "ill-focused, naive and inadequate".

Nick Toms, counsel for the pair, said that both women "deeply regret" what happened to Peter and had been "devastated" by the case.

"Their reputations will probably never recover from the battering they have received in the media," he said.

Haringey Council was heavily criticised over the case and a number of people were sacked or resigned.

They included former head of children's services at Haringey, Sharon Shoesmith, whose sacking was ordered by then Children's Secretary Ed Balls.

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