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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 19:12 GMT
Climbie report urges childcare reform
Marie Therese Kouao, Victoria Climbie and Carl Manning
Victoria was killed by guardians Kouao and Manning
A public inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie two years ago has called for radical reforms of child protection services in England.

Among the report's major proposals is the setting up of a children's commissioner to head a national agency.

The eight-year-old died from abuse and neglect while living with her aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning.

Victoria was seen by dozens of social workers, nurses, doctors and police officers before she died but all failed to spot and stop the abuse as she was slowly tortured to death.

Open in new window : At-a-glance
12 missed chances to save Victoria

It triggered a wide ranging inquiry headed by Lord Laming, who described it as the worst case of neglect he had ever heard of.

His year-long public inquiry identified social services departments at four London boroughs, two police forces, two hospitals, and a specialist children's unit who all failed to act when presented with evidence of abuse.

Lord Laming
I remain amazed that nobody in any of the key agencies had the presence of mind to follow what are relatively straightforward procedures

Lord Laming
Chairman, Climbie Inquiry
The peer told a news conference the failings were "a disgrace".

"In most cases, nothing more than a manager reading a file, or asking a basic question about whether standard practice had been followed, may have changed the course of these terrible events," Lord Laming said

In his report, he wrote: "The legislative framework is fundamentally sound - the gap is in the implementation."

The peer said the greatest failure lay with senior managers and those in charge of staffing and financing these services.

But he believes the publicity during the inquiry had already caused some improvements.

His report proposed the national agency would report to a ministerial committee and attempt to improve co-ordination between groups responsible for child protection.

'Every service failed'

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said the relevant agencies had more than a dozen opportunities within 10 months to act to save Victoria Climbie but failed to do so.

"This was not a failing on the part of one service, it was a failing on the part of every service," he told the House of Commons in a special statement.

The report says there was confusion and conflict

Alan Milburn
He said "good practice" on their part could have saved her life.

"We cannot undo the wrongs done to Victoria Climbie but we can seek to put right for others what so fundamentally failed for her," he added.

The health secretary said the greatest failure rested with senior staff and called for a "fundamental change in the mind-set of managers".

Dr Liam Fox, Conservative health spokesman, said the Climbie report amounted to "a shocking tale of individual professional failure and systemic incompetence."

When Victoria died, on 25 February 2000, she had 128 separate injuries on her body, including cigarette burns, scars where she had been hit by a bike chain and hammer blows to her toes.

Jailed for life

She was also forced to sleep in a bin liner in the bath at the home in Tottenham, north London, where she lived with Kouao and Manning.

Both were jailed for life for her murder in January 2001.

Victoria had been left in Kouao's care by her parents, Francis and Berthe Climbie, who wanted to give her a better life away from their native Ivory Coast.

Francis and Berthe Climbie
I call upon all mothers and call upon all the communities in Britain to make sure that Victoria has not died in vain

Berthe Climbie
Victoria's mother
Victoria's parents travelled to Britain for Tuesday's report.

At a news conference, Berthe Climbie sang one of Victoria's favourite songs, which she said her eight-year-old daughter used to sing on Sundays.

Giving a moving tribute through an interpreter, she said: "We had high hopes for Victoria which today we have lost.

"As a mother, I call upon all mothers and call upon all the communities in Britain to make sure that Victoria has not died in vain."

Victoria's father Francis applauded the work of the inquiry and Lord Laming, who he nicknamed "le sage", or wise man.

Parents' campaign

Mr Climbie added he did not regard Victoria's life as "lost" because of the chance it had created to change childcare for the better.

"She could have been dead with an hour or a day, but she stood and took it for nine months and the reason she did that was because of what we have today.

"That is, an opportunity to make sure no other child will have to go through what Victoria has gone through."

The Climbies said they are starting a campaign to build a school for children in the Ivory Coast.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Niall Dickson
"There were failings at every level"
The BBC's James Westhead
"In dignified grief Victoria Climbie's parents came to find out how and why their daughter died"
Report Author, Lord Laming
"There should be a clear system of accountability"

Key stories

Background

THE TRIAL

TALKING POINT

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See also:

28 Jan 03 | Health
28 Jan 03 | UK
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