Team leader faces fine or prison for refusing to co-operate with Laming

The manager responsible for supervising
Victoria Climbie’s social worker could face a six-month prison
sentence or a £1,000 fine after failing to attend and give
evidence to the public inquiry into Victoria’s death this week.

Carole Baptiste, who was Lisa Arthurworrey’s
team manager until an office reorganisation in November 1999, had
been summoned to appear before the Laming inquiry after she failed
to produce a written statement in the summer.

Although Baptiste blamed her earlier failure
to co-operate on ill-health, a psychiatric report found her fit to
attend and give evidence.

Attempts in August to issue a summons
requiring Baptiste’s attendance were unsuccessful and, after some
difficulty, the summons was finally served to her in person last

Laming told the inquiry that he was satisfied
that everything possible had been done to help Baptiste give her
evidence and she had now exhausted his patience.

“I instruct that the solicitor now lay
information before a magistrate’s court so that criminal
proceedings can be taken and I hope that these proceedings will be
pursued as vigorously as possible,” he said.

During evidence last week, Arthurworrey
described Baptiste as “unavailable” and more interested in
discussing God and her experiences as a black woman than her cases
(News, page 6, 29 November). Baptiste was made redundant by
Haringey in February 2000.

Laming also expressed his annoyance with
Haringey Council after they produced 263 new documents to the
inquiry following last week’s summons requiring social services
director Anne Bristow to produce missing files referred to during

Laming said their late submission was “totally
unacceptable” and “detrimental to the work of the inquiry”.

Counsel to the inquiry Neil Garnham QC said he
would need to reserve the right to recall Haringey witnesses where
appropriate to deal with matters arising out of the new

He added that there appeared to be only two
possible explanations for failure to produce the documentation
earlier: “Either incompetence on the part of Haringey Council or a
deliberate attempt to avoid responsibilities to this inquiry.”

Haringey Council denied that it had
deliberately withheld evidence, stating that it had “genuinely
misunderstood” the scope of the Laming inquiry.

A council spokesperson said the “vast
majority” of the new material provided to the inquiry related to
events in 2001 – including many since the inquiry started – and did
not include any new documents relating to the period leading up to
Victoria’s death.

“We have attempted an approach of ‘if in
doubt, put it in’,” he added.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.