Child Abuse ‘Echoes Case Of Victoria Climbie’

An independent inquiry has been demanded into the handling of a child abuse case that has disturbing echoes of the Victoria Climbie scandal. A four-year-old with cerebral palsy was handed back to her parents by social workers despite foster carers’ grave concerns.

Over seven weeks from 1 February to 18 March last year she suffered the worst abuse experts said they had seen.

{mosimage}Kimberley Harte, 23, and Samuel Duncan, 26, kicked their daughter repeatedly in the groin and locked her in a toilet for 49 days, only weeks after she had been allowed home by Westminster City Council social services.

The Maida Vale couple, who forced her to eat her own faeces and take cold baths, have been found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and this week face possible life sentences.

Today Labour councillors in Westminster demanded a full independent inquiry into the council’s handling of the case.

Labour group leader Paul Dimoldenberg said: “The full circumstances of the council’s decision to let the child return home need to be investigated thoroughly so that, if mistakes were made, they can be avoided in the future.”

The child, who cannot be named, had been taken into care shortly after her second birthday when her parents began arguing violently. But social workers decided it was safe for her to return after 20 months.

Two months later she was found close to death.

A report by Westminster City Council’s local safeguard board says staff “too readily” accepted injuries were the result of accidents.

The case echoes the death of eight-year-old Victoria in 2000 after she was starved, tied up and beaten by her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning.

A Westminster spokesman said the child had been returned with court approval. Julie Jones, director of children’s services, insisted: “This is not another Victoria Climbié case… Of course there are lessons to be learnt which could improve processes for the future.”