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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 23:19 GMT
Climbie parents consider legal action
Victoria Climbie
Victoria had 128 injuries on her body when she died
The parents of murdered child abuse victim Victoria Climbie are considering taking legal action against authorities who failed to stop their daughter being abused, neglected and tortured.

At the end of the first phase of the inquiry into Victoria's death, Francis and Berthe Climbie's solicitor said it was "quite clear" there was a "great deal of culpability" and the family was not ruling out legal redress.

Eight-year-old Victoria died in February 2000 with 128 separate injuries to her body after suffering months of abuse by her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning.

They are serving life for murder.

It has been a long and difficult journey for the Climbies

Imran Khan, Francis and Berthe Climbie's solicitor

She was starved, beaten and trussed in a bin bag and left to sleep in a freezing bathroom.

The abuse continued despite Victoria's regular contact with four local authorities, two police child protection teams, two hospitals and social workers.

The inquiry heard that warnings from members of the public were not heeded by trained professionals some of whom subsequently tried to cover up their incompetence.

'Closure'

The Climbie's solicitor Imran Khan said the public investigation had brought the Climbies some "closure".

But he added it had been a "long and difficult journey.

"They want to remember her as a very lively, bubbly and intelligent girl with a huge future in front of her.

"There was responsibility from the top to the bottom in terms of what went wrong.

Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Kouao systematically abused Victoria

"They have always wanted to know what happened to Victoria but at times they have wanted to close their ears and shut their eyes. It has been a desperate time for them."

The 59 day first phase of the inquiry ended on Tuesday, having addressed the specific circumstances surrounding Victoria's death.

A second phase will aim to prevent a similar tragedy occurring again.

The inquiry is expected to report in September with radical recommendations to reform the system which missed at least 12 chances to save Victoria's life.

She had been sent from her home in the Ivory Coast in the care of Kouao for a better education - common practice within the black community.

The Climbies admit they had been "taken in" by Kouao who also attempted a systematic benefit fraud claiming Victoria was her child.

Neil Garnham QC, counsel for the inquiry, said there was an "astonishing reluctance" from members of all the agencies to speak to Victoria while assessing whether she was being abused.

The higher people get up the ladder, the more they are paid and the less they admit

Victoria's parents

Despite lack of resources, understaffing and strain of work complained of by all the agencies, Mr Garnham added that "one of the hallmarks of good management is the ability to address many problems at once".

The much-criticised Haringey Council in north London had said its focus had been in improving education services in the months leading up to Victoria's death while the Metropolitan Police had been strongly concerned with counter-terrorism measures, the inquiry was told.

Among those under the spotlight are the NSPCC, the Central Middlesex Hospital, the North Middlesex Hospital plus Ealing, Enfield, Brent and Haringey councils.

'Blame and criticism'

Also included in the inquiry are officers from both the Metropolitan Police child protection teams in Brent and Haringey, social work managers Carole Baptiste and Angella Mairs and social worker Lisa Arthurworrey.

In a scathing attack on Britain's child protection services Mr and Mrs Climbie told the inquiry "the higher people get up the ladder, the more they are paid and the less they admit".

Haringey said the inquiry had missed an opportunity to make a difference to the reform of the system because employees had been forced to give evidence in an "atmosphere of blame and criticism".

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Niall Dickson
"The first phase of this enquiry is now over"
  Barnardos Chief Executive Roger Singleton
"This is a landmark case"
  Michael Ledbetter, Assoc. Directors Social Services
"A key finding is the need to listen to the children"

Key stories

Background

THE TRIAL

TALKING POINT
See also:

19 Feb 02 | England
03 Dec 01 | England
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