NSPCC muddle confuses inquiry

Children’s charity the NSPCC has defended its
record in the Victoria Climbie case following further allegations
that it interfered with its evidence to the inquiry.

The inquiry heard last week that chairperson
Lord Laming would be taking the allegations “extremely

But the charity’s response to his questions as
to why discrepancies had appeared in crucial documents (News, page
6, 10 January) added further confusion to the proceedings.

Late submissions to the inquiry included two
different printouts from the NSPCC’s database relating to
Victoria’s case directing different courses of action. Both
documents were dated 23 August 1999 but one was stamped “no further
action” while the other was “accepted for on-going service”.

Lord Laming had ordered further evidence from
the NSPCC after photocopies of Victoria’s case file and a printout
were submitted to the inquiry instead of the originals.

The NSPCC managed the Tottenham Family Centre
in partnership with Haringey Council and Haringey Health Authority.
Victoria was referred there on 5 August 1999, six months before her

A statement to the inquiry from Barry Graham,
the charity’s director of education and community services, said he
was told the original version of the documents had been “lost,
possibly destroyed”. But after hearing the centre’s former practice
manager, Sylvia Henry, tell the inquiry in December that she had
seen the original documents, he “made some telephone calls and was
able to obtain them”.

He admitted he was unable to explain why the
second printout, which stated “no further action”, had not
previously been provided to the inquiry. Such documents would not
usually be printed out and attached to files, he said.

However, he added: “I accept that in a case
such as Victoria’s, the form should have been placed with the
others on the file and supplied to the inquiry.”

Henry was unable to say when she phoned
Haringey social worker Barry Almeida, but told the inquiry that he
had told her the case had been closed as the family had moved out
of the area. The most likely time was between December 1999 and
February 2000 – Victoria had been accepted for a service from the
centre on 23 August 1999.

A review of the database system at the centre
showed that the form was amended and marked for “no further action”
on 15 March 2000, probably as part of the file closure procedure,
taking place in the days leading up to the closure of the centre at
the end of that month, according to Graham’s statement. But there
is no reference to this date on the document.

asks for more time to sum up

Haringey Council has argued that it needs more
time to challenge the allegations levelled against it during the
Climbie inquiry.

Elizabeth Lawson, barrister for the authority,
last week claimed that a 30-minute closing submission would not be
long enough.

She told the inquiry that of all the agencies
involved in Victoria’s case, Haringey had come in for heaviest
criticism and was facing a total of 123 separate allegations of

“I make that less than 15 seconds per
criticism in terms of oral evidence,” she said. “Of course, there
is a school of thought that it doesn’t make any difference what I
say,” she added, referring to the belief among some at Haringey
that the council is being set up to take the blame for Victoria’s

Lord Laming said that he did not share that
view and agreed to extend the time for closing submissions from
Haringey, the Metropolitan Police and Neil Garnham, QC for the
inquiry, from 30 minutes to an hour.

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