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EDITIONS
 Monday, 3 December, 2001, 15:43 GMT
Climbie official faces prosecution
Victoria Climbie died after months of abuse and neglect
A social worker involved in the case of Victoria Climbie is facing prosecution after repeatedly failing to appear at the inquiry into her death.

Carole Baptiste was in charge of the investigation and assessment team at Haringey social services in north London in the run up to eight-year old Victoria's death in February last year.

Inquiry chairman Lord Laming said Ms Baptiste had "exhausted his patience" after she ignored a summons to give evidence to the inquiry being held in south London.

Her behaviour is, to put it mildly, entirely unacceptable

Lord Laming
Lord Laming said: "She is a very important witness. Her behaviour is, to put it mildly, entirely unacceptable."

Carole Baptiste was the line manager for Lisa Arthurworrey, the social worker handling Victoria's case.

Ms Baptiste faces six months in jail or a £1,000 fine under a rarely exercised clause of the Local Government Act which allows prosecution of anyone deliberately failing to answer a summons.

'Inadequate supervision'

Victoria Climbie had 128 separate injuries to her body when she died after suffering months of abuse, torture and neglect at the hands of great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and Kouao's boyfriend, Carl Manning.

The pair are now serving life sentences for her murder.

Ms Arthurworrey, who gave evidence to the inquiry two weeks ago, complained of a lack of adequate supervision by Ms Baptiste.

Victoria's parents, Francis and Berthe Climbie
Victoria's parents flew from the Ivory Coast for the inquiry
Ms Arthurworrey told the inquiry that in many of the supervision sessions with Ms Baptiste, the born-again Christian would talk about God rather than concentrate on case work.

Lord Laming took action after Ms Baptiste refused to co-operate despite promises that attempts had been made to meet her legal costs and a further extension to allow her to appear next Monday.

Serving the summons on her had proved to be a "difficult task indeed" but it was served by hand on 27 November, Neil Garnham QC, counsel for the inquiry said.

Ms Baptiste had made a "bald assertion" that she was too ill to participate but a psychiatrist's report, demanded by the inquiry, revealed she was fit to attend.

New documents

Mr Garnham told Lord Laming: "It would be open to you, sir, to draw every proper inference contrary to Ms Baptiste as you see fit in light of her failure to attend."

Mr Garnham also condemned Haringey council for providing 263 new documents to the inquiry over the weekend.

Their late arrival could only be due to "incompetence on the part of Haringey Council or a deliberate attempt to avoid its responsibilities to this inquiry", he said.

We would decline to allow this inquiry to be derailed by the submission of this vast quantity of new material so late in the day

Neil Garnham QC
Inquiry counsel
The vast bundle of documents pose a "major challenge" to this inquiry to read, digest and analyse at this late stage.

Mr Garnham said: "We would decline to allow this inquiry to be derailed by the submission of this vast quantity of new material so late in the day."

A Haringey Council spokeswoman said: "We have always attempted to assist the inquiry as much as possible and we will continue to do so."

She added Ms Baptiste no longer works for Haringey Council and was made redundant in November 1999.


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