Climbie inquiry told of 'secret deal'

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The health authority and the hospital trust at the heart of the Victoria Climbie case made a secret deal not to blame each other for mistakes in her care, the public inquiry into the eight-year-old's death was told yesterday.

Representatives from the North Middlesex Hospital NHS Trust and the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Health Authority agreed to a "joint and positive approach" to the inquiry in a letter dated 2 October 2001.

It was signed by six people, including Rose Gibb, chief executive of the trust, and Marcia Saunders and Christine Outram, chair and chief executive of the health authority.

The health chiefs also thought they had come to a joint understanding with Haringey Council. But Haringey was in fact critical of the role played by the NHS.

Neil Sheldon, counsel for the inquiry, said the secret deal resulted in lawyers for the NHS organisations refraining from making reference to Haringey Council in their opening statement to the inquiry. Reading out excerpts from the letter, Mr Sheldon said the approach "would not in any way involve us attacking or blaming each other for mistakes made".

George Meehan, leader of Haringey Council, said he was unaware of any discussions or deal having been struck.

Victoria died in February 2000 after suffering months of abuse by Marie Therese Kouao and Carl Manning who are now serving life for murder.