Select Committee on Health Sixth Report


"Her death has become one of those major modern occasions where there seems to have been a collective sense of empathy for a stranger's fate. She has become an embodiment of the betrayal, vulnerability and public abandonment of children. The inquiry must mark the end of child protection policy built on a hopeless process of child care tragedy, scandal, inquiry, findings, brief media interest and ad hoc political response. There is now a rare chance to take stock and rebuild"

Peter Beresford
Professor of Social Policy, Brunel University

1. Victoria Climbié died in the intensive care unit of St Mary's Hospital Paddington on 25 February 2000, aged 8 years and 3 months. Her death was caused by multiple injuries arising from months of ill-treatment and abuse by her great-aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao and her great-aunt's partner, Carl John Manning. Following their conviction for her murder, Lord Laming was appointed in April 2001 to chair an independent statutory inquiry into the circumstances leading to and surrounding the death of Victoria Climbié, and to make recommendations "as to how such an event may, as far as possible, be avoided in the future." The Report of the Inquiry was published on 28 January 2003.[2]

2. It is impossible to read the Report without being moved and appalled by the account of what happened to this little girl, who was sent to England by her family in the Ivory Coast, in the hope of a good education and a better life, but who ended her days the victim of almost unimaginable cruelty. We wish to place on the record our deepest sympathy for her parents, Francis and Berthe Climbié.

3. We held a single evidence session with Lord Laming on 27 March 2003. Our purpose was not to attempt to repeat the detail of the Inquiry, but rather to consider and assess the recommendations that Lord Laming made. We did not invite written evidence, nor did we take oral evidence from witnesses other than Lord Laming. This report is based solely on the evidence taken at that session, and does not pretend to be a comprehensive analysis of all the evidence presented to the original inquiry. We would like to express our gratitude to Lord Laming for agreeing to give us evidence.

4. We were most ably assisted in this inquiry by Melanie Henwood, an independent health and social care analyst. We are most grateful to her for her work for us on this emotive and complicated subject.

Report outline

5. Our report is divided into three chapters. We begin by exploring the background and context to any consideration of the particular recommendations. We then turn to examine Lord Laming's analysis of what went wrong and why, before considering the detailed prescription for change.

1   Community Care, 30 January, p 18 Back

2   Department of Health and The Home Office, The Victoria Climbié Inquiry, Report of an Inquiry by Lord Laming, Cm 5730, January 2003 Back

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