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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 13:11 GMT
Social worker 'made cultural judgement'
Victoria Climbie, Kouao and Manning
Victoria Climbie (centre) suffered months of abuse
By BBC News Online's community affairs reporter Cindi John.

The social worker in the case of murdered Victoria Climbie has told the inquiry into the eight-year-old's death that her assumptions about African-Caribbean families influenced her judgement.

Victoria, from Ivory Coast, died in February last year after months of abuse by her carers, her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend, Carl Manning.

I thought I was dealing with a family struggling to find their feet in a new country

Lisa Arthurworrey
Social worker
Social worker Lisa Arthurworrey, of African-Caribbean descent, said she had assumed Victoria's timidness in the presence of Kouao and Manning stemmed not from fear but from the African-Caribbean culture.

"Respect and obedience are very important to the African-Caribbean family script," Ms Arthurworrey told the hearing.

But she said she now regretted applying such a generalisation of African-Caribbean families to assess the relationship between Kouao and Victoria.

'Veneer of respectability'

Ms Arthurworrey agreed with the inquiry's lead counsel, Neil Garnham, that it had not been sensible to equate the experiences of an black person living in England with those of a French-speaking African girl from Ivory Coast.

At the time of the home visit, Ms Arthurworrey said she had not even been aware that Victoria was from Ivory Coast and knew nothing of her background.

She said the family's "veneer of respectability" had misled her.

She said: "I thought I was dealing with a family struggling to find their feet in a new country."

Ms Arthurworrey is continuing to give evidence to the public inquiry being held in south-east London.

See also:

23 Nov 01 | England
Climbie killers must give evidence
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