Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Friday, 3 June 2005 18:08 UK

NSPCC calls for specialist agency

Victoria Climbie
Recommendations were made after the Victoria Climbie case

The NSPCC has called for the creation of a taskforce of African child protection professionals in the UK.

The call follows the conviction of three people for their part in the abuse of an eight-year-old African girl who had been accused of witchcraft.

NSPCC director Mary Marsh said there was an "urgent need" to raise awareness of abuse within African communities.

Hackney council said an independent review would be launched into its role in the girl's case.

The child, who is now 10, described how she was put into a zip-up laundry bag and told she would be "thrown away" into a river.

The abuse she suffered began in 2003 when a boy told his mother that the girl had been using witchcraft.

The cruelty she was subjected to included being cut with a knife and being beaten with a belt and shoe.

We would like to see a taskforce of African child protection to bring together African professionals who can inform and influence policy
Norbert Marjolin

The orphan, who was brought to Britain in 2002 by her 38-year-old aunt from Angola after her parents died, also had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes to "beat the devil out of her" at a flat in Hackney, east London.

The convictions have prompted calls for action from the NSPCC.

Norbert Marjolin, the NSPCC's national project manager of services to black and minority ethnic children and families, said: "This trial has exposed some beliefs in some communities that can lead to child abuse.

"We would like to see a taskforce of African child protection to bring together African professionals who can inform and influence policy.

"We need to make sure we involve African communities."

He added: "We set up the African Child Alliance in 2003, in which African professionals work with the NSPCC to raise awareness about issues within their communities.

Sharing information

"But we're now calling for a more robust taskforce," he added - stressing that it should be able to influence local authorities and central government.

Mr Marjolin said the NSPCC was in the initial stages of bringing in recommendations made by Lord Laming, following the Victoria Climbie case, to ensure children were safeguarded.

Victoria, who was sent to this country from the Ivory Coast in the hope of a better life, died aged eight in 2000 after suffering months of torture and abuse from her carers.

"These recommendations place a duty on all those responsible for child protection. It calls on agencies to work together better and share information," Mr Marjolin added.

He pointed out that "different communities from the African diaspora have different barriers - such as language or money", which needed to be addressed to tackle abuse effectively.

But Mr Marjolin was keen to stress that abuse occurs in all communities.

He said: "We know the vast majority of African children in this country are well cared for - these are isolated cases."

video and audio news
How the eight-year-old girl came close to death

Victoria carers guilty of murder
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