Three papers pay Baby P social worker damages

A social worker has accepted compensation and apologies from three newspapers today over the publication of false allegations about her role in the Baby P tragedy.

Sylvia Henry, who is employed by the London Borough of Haringey as a social worker team manager, settled three separate libel actions at the High Court today.

Her solicitor James Heath told Justice Eady that articles published in the Evening Standard and the Daily Mirror alleged Henry had been negligent in her dealings with Peter Connolly, which had contributed to his death.

Heath told the court that a further article in The Independent alleged that Henry “was one of the social workers who had culpably failed to protect Peter from his guardians and thereby bore a share of the responsibility for his suffering and eventual harrowing death”.

He told Justice Eady the allegations were untrue and that Henry “was not implicated in any way in the errors which led to Peter’s death”.

The publishers of the three newspapers had agreed to compensate her for the harm caused by the articles, he added. However, no figure for the level damages was disclosed in court.

Heath told the court that Peter Connolly was admitted to hospital in December 2006 with suspicious injuries and his case was referred to Haringey social services “where it was dealt with by, amongst others, Ms Henry”.

In January 2007, Peter’s position was reviewed: “Ms Henry remained concerned that he might be at risk if returned to the care of his mother, Tracey Connolly. She did not want this to happen until further assessments had been made.”

Heath added: “However, despite her efforts, she was unable to obtain the necessary authorisation and a decision was made to return Peter to his family.”

From this point on, Heath said, Henry had no further involvement in the case.

Justine Wilkie, solicitor for Associated Newspapers Limited, part-owner and publisher of the Evening Standard, told the judge: “Associated Newspapers wishes to apologise unreservedly for the hurt and upset caused to Ms Henry, the misrepresentation of her role in the case of Peter Connolly and has agreed to compensate her for the damage which has resulted.”

Holly Mason, solicitor for MGN Ltd, publisher of the Daily Mirror, said: “The defendant never intended to suggest that the claimant had been negligent or had contributed to Peter Connolly’s death and wishes to apologise to her for the hurt and upset caused by publication of the article.”

Kim Hardman, solicitor for Independent News and Media Limited, publisher of The Independent, told the judge that the defendant “wishes to apologise unreservedly for the upset caused to Ms Henry by the misrepresentation of her role in the case of Peter Connolly and has agreed to compensate her for the damage which has resulted”.

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