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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Climbie death 'could have been avoided'
Marie Therese Kouao, Victoria and Carl Manning.
Haringey Social Services could have been restructured
The life of Victoria Climbie could have been saved if a report had given a more accurate picture of social services in her north London borough, the inquiry into her death has heard.

Neil Garnham QC, counsel for the public inquiry, said Haringey council could have attempted a turnaround if it had received a critical report from the joint Social Services Inspectorate and Audit Commission in 1999, when Victoria was in its care.

The joint report failed to accurately describe the crisis in Haringey, he said.

It gave Haringey's social services a clean bill of health and said clients were "generally well served".

But this was the time when eight-year-old Victoria was being abused by her great aunt Marie Therese Kouao and her aunt's boyfriend Carl Manning.

Ealing example

Victoria had 128 separate injuries on her body when she died, in February 2000, after months of suffering.

Both Kouao and Manning are serving life sentences for the child's murder.

After her death the council relied heavily on the joint report to defend itself against charges of incompetence.

Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie had 128 wounds on her body when she died
The report was published in November 1999 and Haringey would have received feedback on it in June that year.

Mr Garnham pointed out that Ealing Social Services in west London had managed to "effect a complete restructuring" of its children's services within three months.

"The experience of Ealing may provide a useful comparison by which you could assess what Haringey might have achieved had they received a critical Joint Review and chosen to act decisively upon it," he said.

A later review, published in April 2001, concluded that an "overly positive picture of Haringey's social services, particularly children's services" had been painted by the earlier report.

The public inquiry has now concluded and expects to report with radical recommendations to reform Britain's child protection services in December.


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