This essay is going to use the case of Victoria Climbè to explorethe role of the victim within the criminal justice system today. Morespecifically, this assignment is going to draw upon the practical policy byanalysing the agencies which were involved and how they responded to the caseof Victoria Climbè, and also on the theoretical perspectives that can help usunderstand how the role of the victim has changed over time. A signal crime is defined as “those particularly serious or high profilecrimes which impact not only on the immediate participants (victims, offenders,witnesses), but also on wider society, resulting in some reconfiguration ofbehaviours or beliefs” (Innes, 2003).Victoria was one of seven siblings living in the Ivory Coast withher parents.
At the age of six, Victoria started school where she stood out tobe very intellectual. In 1998, her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao offered totake Victoria to France where she could continue her studies, so her motherentrusted Victoria with Marie in hope for a better education and life. Shortlyafter living in France, Marie and Victoria moved to London after a socialworker became involved because of the school Victoria was attending issued a’Child at Risk Emergency Notification.’ Victoria Climbè was eight years old when she died in London in theyear 2000. She was tortured to death with bicycle chains, hammers and coat hangers by Marie and herboyfriend at the time, Carl Manning (News.bbc.co.
uk, 2018) “Kouao and Manning kept Victoria tied up in a black plastic bag withher hands and feet bound tightly with masking tape. She was left, for hours ata time, in a windowless bathroom, unable to move, lying in her own excrement,without food, light or heat. Manning would arrive and beat her with a coathanger or hammer” (Palmer, 2018)During her time in London whilst the abuse was taking place,Victoria had been in contact with police, social workers and doctors.
However,despite being seen by a dozen different social workers, nurses and policeofficers, Victoria died from 128 different injuries as they all failed tonotice any abuse which was taking place. Because of the tragic death ofVictoria Climbè, Lord Lamming wrote the Victoria Climbè Inquiry in which DrLesley Alsford, the consultant responsible for Victoria’s care states, “I hadnever seen a case like it before. It is the worst case of child abuse andneglect that I have ever seen.” https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273183/5730.
pdf The main fault of the agencies who were involved in the case was thelack of communication and the simple fact of not understanding each other. Whenthe inquiry first opened in 2001, newspapers and articles were talking aboutthe failure and incompetence of those who were on the front line of care ofVictoria such as her social worker, Lisa Arthurworrey and child protectionofficer, PC Karen Jones (Batty, 2018). To begin with, Victoria was known by many different social workersin five different establishments. This assignment will focus in on only one ofthose establishments. Initially, she wasreferred to social worker Ms Fortune in Ealing after Kouao’s housingapplication was refused.
Although, at the time, there was forms which needed tobe completed to make such referral in which Ms Winter, housing officer, did notcomply to. As a result, social services were unable to check contradictions inthe case of Victoria and the details her aunt gave about her life. Victoria wasalso described by another social worker, Mr Matrin, as a ‘child in need’ in thereport however it was only assumed it meant in need in terms of housing andfood, rather than in need of any other assistance. Mr Matrin, and other socialworkers should have seen this and investigated in more depth into the life ofVictoria to ensure that housing and food were the only needs Victoria had.
Kauoa and Victoria returned to Ealings Social Services the following day afterbeing advised to do so by Mr Martin where she was seen by another socialworker, Mr Godfrey Victor. After the interview with Kouao, Mr Victor failed tomake any statutory checks. This was another major failing within socialservices as if Mr Victor did his checks, some information about Victoria mayhave become apparent, such as how Victoria was known to French social servicesand how her school in France registered a Child at Risk Notification- whichonly became apparent after her death. Another social worker, Ms Gaunt, whointerviewed Kouao and Victoria after they put forward a complaint about theiraccommodation, noticed vast differences in the appearances Kouao and her ‘daughter.’Ms Gaunt described Victoria as dull, short unhealthy and generally less wellgroomed compared to her mother whose hair was always well styled.
She describedVictoria as “looking like one of the adverts for Action Aid.” Despite havingthese concerns for Victoria, she only briefly brought it up with her colleaguesand failed to make any record of this or prompt to make any furtherinvestigation. This was another major failing as Ms Gaunt had a clearunderstanding that Victoria was a ‘child in need’ within the context of theChildren’s Act 1989 and despite knowing a full assessment needed to take placeby local authorities, she failed to report any of this.
pdf On 14th July 1999, Victoria was admitted to CentralMiddlesex Hospital by Pricilla Cameron after seeing a number of differentinjuries inflicted on Victoria. Dr Rhys Beynon saw Victoria at the hospital andconsidered there was a high chance of these injuries being ‘non-incidental’ andtherefore referred Victoria to paediatrician, Dr Ajai-Obe. Dr Ajai-Obe thoroughlyexamined the body of Victoria, noting where all her scars and marks were on herbody. When asked, Victoria was say the wounds were self-inflicted by herscratching however, Dr Ajay-Obe did not seem to believe this was the truth.Victoria was thoroughly examined and after being “strongly suspicious” theseinjuries were non-incidental she referred Victoria to Dr Ruby Schwartz, a childprotection doctor, and also to Brent Social Services. Whilst Victoria was inhospital, a number of different nurses were suspicious of the marks all overVictoria’s forearms and noticed unusual behaviour from her as Ms Cameron left.This was a major failing on the department of healthcare made by the nurses asno record of Victoria and their suspicions on Kouao was made by them.
Dr Ruby Schwartz finished examining Victoria and came to the conclusionthat her injuries were as a result of her having scabies, which caused her toscratch herself vigorously and in contrary to Dr Ayaji-Obe’s understanding ofVictoria’s injuries, said the number of marks was not enough to be that ofphysical abuse. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273183/5730.
pdf “What I found were the marks, particularly on her hands, the scratchmarks, the areas that look as if they had pus in, and the face that there werescratches on the body as well.” https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273183/5730.pdfpage 244 9.40This was most likely the biggest failing on behalf of thehealthcare. As a result of Dr Schwartz failing to notice any physical abusetaking place and diagnosing Victoria with scabies, social worker MichelleHines, closed an investigation against Victoria into suspected abuse withoutmeeting her. Instead of just closing the investigation, a home visit shouldhave been made to ensure that the living standards Victoria was in was safe andjust to generally ensure that Victoria was safe and not suffering from anyabuse.
Despite many other doctors and nurses being suspicious of the abuse thatVictoria was suffering from, after she was diagnosed with scabies none of themfollowed it up just ensure she was safe (Batty, 2018)The Children’s Act 1989 was the first significant law which had beenput in place to ensure the safety of children however, after the horrific deathVictoria Climbè the government issued a green paper called ‘Every ChildMatters’ which was passed under the Children’s Act 2004. This involves anintegrated children’s computer system in order to ensure that information wasmore vigorously and regularly checked and collected. Structural changes were also made, for example a common assessmentframework was created in order for experts in healthcare, social work and thepolice and initiate better support for the victims (Community Care, 2018).
Many questions are raised as to why these and other agencies did notdo their job correctly and as a result, failed Victoria. One of the mainquestions raised is because of the background of young Victoria. Just as it isargued that crime is a social construction, it can be argued the term ‘victim’has been also. Nils Christie (1986) began to explore what we already know aboutthe different identities and attributes of known victims and from this, putforward a stereotyped image of the ‘ideal victim.
‘ Christie identified sixattributes that he believed would make the idea victim. The six attributes areas follows; The victim must be weak in comparison to the offender and must beacting virtuously and going by his every day life. The ideal victim would beblameless for the offence that had taken place and is completely unrelated tothe offender who would ideally be unmistakeably big and bad. Finally, the victimwould have enough power, influence or sympathy to be successful in bringingforth the status of a victim (Dignan 2005). It could be argued Victoria did not receive the help she required asshe did not fit into this idea of the ideal victim. Victoria only fits into twoof six attributes which tells us what the ideal victim is. She was weak inrelation to the offender as she was female and a very young girl and wascompletely blameless for the events that had taken place. However, the offenderwas not a stranger to Victoria, in fact the offender was her family- her greataunt and boyfriend at the time.
Finally, because Victoria came from a poorfamily, she failed to have to power and influence to elicit the status of avictim. It is for these reasons Victoria’s story would not be deemed’newsworthiness.’ Social exclusion is a form ofdiscrimination. It is defined as “exclusion from prevailing social system andits rights and privileges, typically as a result of poverty or the fact ofbelonging to a minority social group” (Oxford Dictionaries English, 2018). Itis clear from this definition that Victoria was socially excluded from thecriminal justice system and the social system of the different agencies whichwere involved. Victoria fits into thisdefinition as she can be classed as being socially excluded as a result of her ethnicity,race and class. She comes from a poor family from the Ivory Coast and alsobelongs to an ethnic minority group as she is black and therefore, did not getthe same treatment as that of someone who was not social excluded would havegot.
It could be argued that Victoria being female also contributed to hersocial exclusion. Society describes social exclusion of making individuals notfeel important and isolated from the rest of the world. Victoria Climbe did notattend school and therefore had no friends. Instead of playing out with otherchildren like the average eight-year old girl, Victoria was locked in thebathroom. However, Victoria did have connections with the church therefore, itcould be argued that she was not completely excluded and if she wanted too, shehad somebody to turn to. On the other hand, it could also be argued that shewas excluded as the pastor from the church believed her injuries were as aresult of demonic possession.The case of Victoria Climbè stands out as a signal crime because itinfluenced society and created changes in procedures and legislation. However,it wasn’t until years after the death of Victoria and until the offenders werein court for the crime it came to the attention of the media.
Whereas the caseof James Bulger, for example, received attention from the media straight away.James Bulger was two years old when he was led away from his mother in the shoppingcentre and then tortured to death by two ten-year old boys (Khomami, 2018) It could be argued that the case of James Bulger received a higherlevel of attention than the case of Victoria Climbe because he fits into theframework required to be the ‘ideal victim’ more than Victoria did. UnlikeVictoria, James was British born white and from a middle class family, thereforehim and his family had the power and influence to gain the status of a victim.
Victoria was a young African black girl. It is clear to see that some form ofdiscrimination against her race.In addition to this, agencies may also not have responded because ofthe issue of racism. Agencies such as social services and the police may nothave wanted to investigate too much into the case of Victoria in case there wasno abuse, and therefore they would seem racist investigating into a blackfamily. However, if they investigated her case correctly without worrying abouthow society might find the racist, it would have come to attention thatVictoria was being abused and required help. Karman (1990) has identified three different areas within the studyof victimology in helping to understand the development of victims: positive,radical and critical victimology (Carrabine et al, 2004). This part of theassignment will focus on the positivists and critical victimology theories. To begin with, positivists victimology is a term which was puttogether by Miers (1989) in order to understand the way in which the work ofvictimology took as its main focus (Walklate, 2007).
Miers (1989:3) identified key characteristics of positivistvictimology”The identification of factors which contribute to a non-randompattern of victimisation, a focus on interpersonal crimes of violence, and aconcern to identify victims who may have contributed to their own victimisation”(Mowlby and Walklate, 1994). Von Hentig (1948) has been credited the founder of positivistvictimology (Spalek 2006). Positivist victimologist attempts to identify thefactors which are associated with victimisation. It operates on the idea thatthere is a difference between those who commit crime and those who do not.
Victimologists, such as Von Hentig and Mendelsohn, were interestedin looking at non-randomized patterns of victimising events and in linkingthese events to types of victims who could then be categorised into victimtypologies. They have attempted to understand victimology through constructiondifferent ‘victim typologies’ by looking at ways to categorise differentvictims (Dignan, 2005). Von Hentig (1948) proposed the typology which carriedthe idea that some people were more prone to victimisation than others knownas, ‘victim proneness.’ Whereas, Mendelsohn’s (1956) typology was more concernedwith the idea that the victim could be held responsible and therefore suggestedthat certain people are, to some extent, responsible for their ownvictimisation (Spalek, 2006).Shortly from this, the idea of Victim Precipitation emerged aspositivists began to look at the behaviour of certain victims.
VictimPrecipitation is an early concept which considers the nature of the victims’behaviour as a factor which contributes to the crime which had been committedagainst them. Von Hentig stated that this is when the victim acts inprovocative way, initiating a chain of events that lead to their victimisation(Walklate, 2007). It is clear to see that this theory does not apply to thecase of Victoria as she did not initiate or act provocatively in any way.
Therefore, it is for this reason, this theory could be questioned whether itcan be a theory of victimisation when it does it not apply to all victims. Another main theory driven by positivist criminologist is theRoutine Activity Theory. Routine Activity Theory is a theory which wasoriginally developed by Cohen and Felson in 1979.
This theory provides atheoretical framework within which to prevent crime through altering at leastone of the elements. It predicts that crime will occur where there is a meetingof time and space of three elements. The elements are: A motivated offender, asuitable victim and the absence of a capable guardian (Walklate, 2007).Routine Activity Theory is a theory which could explain why Victoriawas a victim of such a heinous crime as the elements were present.
There was anabsence of a capable guardian as Victoria was away from her home, her parents,her whole family and everyone she knew. It was for this reason that Victoriawould also be a suitable target as she was a young girl and was in a strangenew country so could be classified asweak, which is what would have made her a suitable target. The final element isthe motivated offender. There is straight forward reason as to why Victoria’saunt and her boyfriend were motivated offenders however, it could be said theyfelt Victoria’s presence in the house was a burden upon themselves and for thatreason they motivated each other.
The inquiry states, “She (Kouao) asked MrsCameron if she would look after Victoria permanently.” (Inquiry.Page 239, 9.1).
From this it is clear to see that Kouao no longer wantedto look after Victoria.However, Routine Activity Theory is not a theory of criminalbehaviour but rather a theory of criminal victimisation and therefore does notexplain why some people are more motivated to commit crime than others. It iscommonly referred to as a theory of common sense- if you don’t go out, there isless chance of a crime being committed against you. Although positivists victimology works in certain ways there aremany weaknesses to this theory.
The main one being that it takes the meaning ofbeing a victim as ‘self-evident’ because of the idea that the individual wouldhave suffered and that their status will be defined by criminal law, thereforeonly concentrating on victims who suffer from crimes which involve violence ordestructive attitudes towards others (Dignan, 2005). The next strand of critical victimology has been used in numerous ofways in order to create a summary for victimology. It initially arose as an approachto talk about the insufficiencies of both positive and radical perspectives.Miers articulates one understanding of this version of victimology as aresolution of some of the difficulties he associates with positivism. Criticalvictimology has “shown much more interest in the practical effects of theoriesand policies upon actual victims, and in the dynamic relationship betweentheorising and dealing with victims” (Williams 1999a, p. 19).Restorative justice is the process whereby the offenders and victimsinvolved in specific offences resolve how to deal with any repercussions andissues which might be brought up in the future. Restorative justice can be understoodto be more a more progressive alternative to the traditional ways of punishmentand responses to crime and the wrongdoing of individuals (McLaughlin andMuncie, 2013).
This process would not be able to relate to the case of VictoriaClimbè as the offenders would not be able to resolve anything with Victoria asshe had died. However, if the offenders wanted to try resolve their wrongdoingsit can be argued that they speak with Victoria’s parents. Although, it can also be argued that thiswould not be effective as they were not direct victims of the crime, and theywere not involved with Victoria during the course of her abuse as they were ina different country. To conclude, the case of Victoria Climbè did stand out as a signalcrime as there was changes in legislation and practice, however it did not getas much attention to it in comparison to other signal crimes. This could be fora variety of different reasons, including the fact she was from a underprivilegeblack family, or the fact she did not fit into society’s explanation of what anideal victim would be. Different victimology theories have been put forward tounderstand how certain individuals are more likely to be victims than othershowever, did not seem to be able to explain why Kouao and Manning abusedVictoria the way they did.
It is alsoclear to not only was Kouao and Manning responsible for the death of Victoria,but also many of the agencies involved as they all somehow contributed to herdeath by not helping her in her time of need. The real reason as why so many ofthese agencies failed her is still however, unknown.