Victoria Climbié's sorry legacy -

and 11 million children lose their civil liberties

Victoria ClimbiéVictoria Climbié

In January 2001 Marie-Therese Kouao and Carl John Manning were convicted of the torture and murder of Victoria Climbié'. This was a cause célèbre. The Laming Inquiry exposed the usual shambolic catalogue of errors, carelessness and mismanagement as is usual in such cases. The only people spared from criticism were Victoria's parents. Lord Laming stated that:

I wish to pay a warm tribute to Victoria's parents, Francis and Berthe Climbié. They were present for the whole of Phase One of this Inquiry. Their love for Victoria was clear, as were their hopes that she would receive a better education in Europe. In the face of the most disturbing evidence about the treatment of their daughter, they displayed both courage and dignity...... Victoria's parents' reasons for allowing her to travel to Europe with Kouao fall outside the Terms of Reference of this Inquiry. It is not a matter I will be dealing with, except to observe that I have seen evidence which shows that entrusting children to relatives living in Europe who can offer financial and educational opportunities unavailable in the Ivory Coast is not uncommon in Victoria's parents' society.

Well it should have been. Many tens of thousands of children are trafficked in West and Central Africa, some are smuggled into by London slave traders and sold as domestic servants worth £40 a week in benefits. Other African children, around 11,000, are living, as Victoria did, with informal foster carers and some are used for prostitution. And still they come.

Victoria's parents allowed her to leave on a false passport with a distant relative that they had met but 3 times. They had no address for Victoria in London and could not afford a single international telephone call, so evidently a telephone number was known. They only heard from Kouao three times. Berthe Climbié is unrepentant:

In African society children are not just the children of their parents, but the children of their aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters. The greatest privilege of all is for a relative to offer to educate your child abroad. In Africa we are only able to survive because those who are successful feel a duty to help those who are not.

This may be the attitude of some African parents, yet this is exactly what should be investigated and prevented.

The misguided advice from Lord Laming has resulted in the soon to be launched children's database called ContactPoint which will include the names, ages and addresses of all 11 million under-18s in England as well as information on their parents, GPs, schools and support services such as social workers. The computer system alone will cost £224 million.

The idea is to connect the different services dealing with children and prevent anything like Victoria's murder happening again. Yet the Laming Inquiry is the 35th inquiry into the death of a child since Maria Colwell's in 1973; more paperwork, more workshops and discussion papers and still, every week a child under ten is murdered and children are also wrongly removed from innocent parents by the secret Family Courts.

The appalling epitaph to this tragic little girl's death is to be a database which will be accessible by 330,000 people. Apart from the intrusion into the civil liberties of our children, there is the fact that information is sure to be lost or stolen. This also sounds like a paedophile's charter. In addition we are told here, that:
Little-noticed guidance published by the Government discloses that ContactPoint users can request administrators to give them archived data for a number of reasons, including "for the prevention or detection of crime" and "for the prosecution of offenders".

All because two African parents absolved responsibility for their child.

Baroness Miller, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman in the House of Lords, said: "This is truly shocking. It's exactly the definition of a police state.