The Haringey social work manager charged with refusing or
deliberately failing to attend the Victoria Climbie Inquiry earlier
this month pleaded not guilty to the charges at Camberwell Green
magistrates court today (Wednesday) on the grounds of ill health,
writes Lauren Revans.
Carole Baptiste, formerly an investigation and assessment team
manager at Haringey council’s north Tottenham Office, is
considered by inquiry chairperson Lord Herbert Laming as “pivotal”
to the inquiry’s proceedings.
Her management skills and availability have been questioned by
several inquiry witnesses so far, including Victoria’s
allocated social worker Lisa Arthurworrey.
Baptiste was summoned to appear in court after she failed to
turn up to give evidence to Laming and his team of experts on 3
December. She has also refused to provide the inquiry with a
written witness statement.
However, her barrister Peter Shaw told the court today that
Baptiste was now willing to co-operate with the inquiry, and that
he was keen for her to give evidence “in the very near future”.
He said Baptiste had been suffering from mental health problems,
including depression and a breakdown, and had been prescribed new
medication with some side effects at the time she had been due to
appear before the inquiry.
But prosecuting barrister Brian Altman said Baptiste’s
psychiatrist had told the inquiry she was fit to attend and had
been encouraged to do so. He said Baptiste had first been told that
she would need to give evidence to the inquiry in May, and
described the last six months as a period of “obstruction,
obfuscation and frustration”.
Shaw said Baptiste’s condition was now “much improved”,
but that she was still under the care of a psychiatrist at Maudsley
District judge Haydn Gott rejected Shaw’s application to
delay hearing Baptiste’s plea, but agreed to a date for trial
that would not affect Baptiste’s co-operation with the
Baptiste was granted unconditional bail and a trial date was set
for 20 February 2002. Baptiste is expected to give her evidence to
the public inquiry by mid January, when phase one of the inquiry is
due to finish. A pre-trial review will be held on 16 January, but
Baptiste will not be required to attend in person.