Social workers win delay of disciplinary hearing

    Two social workers threatened with dismissal from their jobs
    over their involvement in the Victoria Climbie case secured a
    postponement of disciplinary hearings against them,
    writes Lauren Revans.

    Allocated social worker Lisa Arthurworrey and duty and
    investigation team leader Angella Mairs had been due to attend
    disciplinary hearings of Haringey Council at the start of September
    – just days before the Victoria Climbie public inquiry led by Lord
    Herbert Laming begins on September 26.

    But high court judge Mr Justice Jackson issued an order this
    week preventing the council from proceeding until both social
    workers have been “released from giving evidence to the (Laming)
    inquiry” – currently expected to be at the end of October.

    Justice Jackson said the outcome had been dictated by the
    “timetable of events in conjunction with the medical evidence”
    which suggested that a disciplinary hearing at this time could
    jeopardise the ability of Arthurworrey and Mairs to participate
    fully in the Laming inquiry. Both women – particularly Arthurworrey
    – have been suffering from stress and related ill-health.

    However, Justice Jackson rejected a request for disciplinary
    proceedings to be postponed until the Laming inquiry has published
    its final report – not expected until Spring 2002 – and refuted
    suggestions that the Laming inquiry would in any way be prejudiced
    by the findings of the disciplinary hearing or any subsequent
    action taken. The judge turned down applications from both sides
    for permission to appeal.

    Victoria Climbie, also known as Anna, was brought from the Ivory
    Coast to England by her great aunt Marie-Therese Kouao in March
    1999 and died 11 months later at the hands of Kouao and her
    boyfriend Carl Manning. Kouao and Manning were convicted of her
    murder in January 2001 and sentenced to life.

    Arthurworrey was Climbie’s allocated social worker between
    August 1999 and February 2000. She was suspended by Haringey
    Council in October 2001 and, following an internal investigation,
    faces allegations including failing to discharge her duties as
    social worker in a proper and competent manner, and failing to
    assess Climbie’s needs, take actions to promote her well-being, and
    safeguard her interests.

    Mairs was Arthurworrey’s team leader and was suspended in March
    2001. She faces allegations of wilfully removing documents still
    required by the council from the Climbie case file, and making
    false and misleading statements to the council’s Part 8 inquiry
    into Climbie’s death.

    Mairs is also accused of failing to meet the standards required
    of a team manager, including monitoring, developing and evaluating
    the services provided by the team, and failing to read the case
    file as required by departmental policy.

    The statutory inquiry into Climbie’s death was announced by
    health secretary Alan Milburn in January this year. He confirmed in
    April that the inquiry would be held in public using powers under
    the Children Act’s 1989, the NHS Act 1977 and the Police Act
    1996.

    The inquiry has already collected witness statements and sent
    bundles of information relating to the inquiry to all interested
    parties.

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