Baptiste tells court that she was medically unfit to give evidence

The senior social worker who failed to attend the Victoria Climbie
Inquiry told a court last week it was always her intention to give

Carole Baptiste, who was responsible for supervising Victoria’s
social worker Lisa Arthurworrey, has been accused of conducting a
six-month campaign of obstruction and non co-operation with the
inquiry. It culminated in her failure to give evidence in December

Baptiste, 39, who is the first person to be prosecuted for failing
to attend a public inquiry, said she was mentally unfit to give
evidence. She finally attended the inquiry in January.

The former team leader at Haringey Council told Camberwell
Magistrates Court: “If I were completely healthy I would have been
in that inquiry. The issue was really about my medical well-being
and that I was experiencing a lot of symptoms or adverse affects,
that I wasn’t clear about or I couldn’t remember things.”

However, her psychiatrist, Ikechukwu Azonye, told the court that he
considered Baptiste fit to give evidence following a consultation
just four days before she was due at the inquiry. He had agreed to
the unscheduled consultation after Baptiste told her GP that God
was talking to her, that she was stressed and could not remember

The psychiatrist found no evidence of psychosis but prescribed beta
blockers and diazepam to reduce her anxiety.

He told the court: “I was unable to do as she requested – to say
that she was not fit to give evidence to the inquiry – because that
would have been dishonest.” Baptiste later complained that Azonye’s
recommendation “fell below the standards of his profession”.

After taking the medication Baptiste felt “normal again” and agreed
to give evidence, he said.

Anthony Maden, a consultant forensic psychologist, said Baptiste
was still suffering symptoms related to a serious psychotic episode
in January 2000.

He found Baptiste’s functioning was “disorganised and chaotic”
during two consultations in January this year. After one
consultation he came away thinking, “how on earth did this woman
ever cope as a social worker?”

All the evidence has now been heard and District Judge Haydn-Gott
will give his verdict on 27 August. Baptiste, who has pleaded not
guilty, faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a
£1,000 fine if convicted.

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