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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 16:36 GMT
Climbie parents reject apology
Carole Baptiste
Carole Baptiste faces criminal proceedings
The parents of murdered Victoria Climbie have rejected an apology from the social worker who supervised their daughter's case.

Carole Baptiste told the inquiry into the eight-year-old's death she regretted any contribution she may have had in Victoria's death, and pleaded for forgiveness for her delay in co-operating with the investigation.

Berthe and Francis Climbie said her apology had come "rather late" and the delay had added to their suffering.

"Her delay has prolonged the stress, anxiety and pain because of her failure to give valuable evidence which would assist the inquiry and help us understand why our daughter died and the circumstances in which she died."

Ms Baptiste was the manager responsible for supervising Lisa Arthurworrey, Victoria's social worker, in the weeks leading up to Victoria's murder in February 2000.


I deeply regret any contribution I may have had in what happened to Victoria.

Carole Baptiste
On Tuesday she finally appeared at the inquiry into Victoria's death after months of attempts by the panel to persuade her to give evidence.

She faces criminal proceedings for breaching an inquiry summons - the first person to face such charges.

In a personal note to the Climbies contained in her witness statement Ms Baptiste apologised to Victoria's parents.

"I deeply regret any contribution I may have had in what happened to Victoria.

"I do not seek to avoid my part in what occurred and it saddens me to see that others have sought to do so.

"I regret that Victoria's voice was not heard and nobody will fully understand the pain that she suffered."

Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Kouao systematically abused Victoria
Ms Baptiste said she had been unwell.

In spite of her non-attendance at the inquiry the Climbies had been in her thoughts, Ms Baptiste added.

"The sadness that you may be feeling within your hearts, I feel within mine," she said.

Victoria died after months of abuse and torture by her carers - her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and Kouao's boyfriend, Carl Manning.

Kouao, 44, and Manning, 29, were convicted of her murder and jailed for life in January 2001.

Belligerent

In spite of her attendance, Ms Baptiste often claimed to not recall details when questioned by the inquiry's counsel, Neil Garnham QC.

In a sometimes belligerent manner, Ms Baptiste - who has been unemployed since leaving her post at Haringey in February 2000 - rejected allegations by former colleagues that she had not been a competent manager.

"It was difficult managing such a heavy caseload," she said.

Victoria Climbie
Victoria had 128 injuries on her body when she died
But she admitted with hindsight her handling of Victoria's case was flawed.

"In an ideal world I probably would have done things very differently."

Ms Baptiste who was criticised in an independent report for "an unacceptably low level of managerial oversight" denied she had been negligent in supervising Victoria's social worker, Miss Arthurworrey.

And she criticised Miss Arthurworrey's work attitude saying she had not liked to be opposed in her assessment of cases.

"Lisa Arthurworrey did not want to be challenged. That was part of the problem."

'Criticisms inconsistent'

Ms Baptiste maintained she had had regular supervisory sessions with Ms Arthurworrey and had accompanied her on a number of visits to clients.

But Mr Garnham said an appraisal of Miss Arthurworrey, carried out by Ms Baptiste during her time at Haringey, proved she had believed the social worker to be competent.

"You are blaming Lisa Arthurworrey now to deflect criticism from yourself. Your criticism is entirely inconsistent with your own earlier assessment of her," Mr Garnham said.

BBC home affairs correspondent, Sue Littlemore, said Ms Baptiste's attitude was in keeping with a habit of "buckpassing" since the start of the investigation.

"Carole Baptiste has not claimed or accepted any responsibility and only one person out of the many, a senior doctor, said she was sorry and accepted some responsibility for what happened."

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The BBC's Susan Littlemore
"There has been incompetence at every level"

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03 Dec 01 | England
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