One of the noticeably absent voices from the usual Opposition chorus in Parliament yesterday was Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s
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DPP looking at file on St Michael abuse
Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard is reviewing the file on allegations of negligence, gross misconduct and sexual impropriety at the St Michael’s School for Boys, Diego Martin, where teenager Brandon Hargreaves died. Hargreaves, 14, died on April 8 after hitting his head on the concrete floor of his dormitory, reportedly while trying to dropkick another child. He had been sent to the school by the court. The findings of the report were disclosed in the Senate on Tuesday by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan who said details of the claims were discovered during a probe into the death of Hargreaves.
During the inquiry into the operations of the school, several issues were discovered, including money laundering, racketeering, illicit sexual liaisons between staff members and the boys, theft, negligence and abuse. It was ordered by the Ministry of Gender Affairs, Youth and Child Development. Ramlogan promised the report would be forwarded to the DPP and acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams. In a telephone interview yesterday, Gaspard said it was “still receiving my active consideration and it might very well be that it warrants a police investigation.”
Williams could not be reached yesterday to find out if a police investigation had been launched, as calls to his cellphone went unanswered.
Calls to the chairman of the Children’s Authority, Stephanie Daly, and chairman of the Child Protection Task Force, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, also went unanswered. The Anglican Diocese shares responsibility for St Michael’s with the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development. In an interview on Wednesday, Anglican Bishop Clyde Berkley said he would seek a meeting with the school board to address the matter. Calls to Berkley’s cellphone went unanswered yesterday.
Ministry: New Arrangements
In a statement on Wednesday, the ministry said the school board was informed of the findings of the investigative team on May 7 and responded in a letter dated June 30. The details of that letter have not been revealed.
The ministry said it had initiated discussions aimed at improving the management arrangements for industrial schools and orphanages, via a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Prepared by the ministry and reviewed by the Attorney General, the MOU was sent to four institutions, including the board at St Michael’s, but to date, there has been no feedback.
The ministry’s director of National Family Services functions as the Inspector of Industrial Schools and Orphanages and monitors the activities there.
The ministry stressed that the day-to-day operations at the school were performed by the manager, who also operates as the CEO, with responsibility to execute key management functions.
The board’s purview entails implementation of rules and provides strategic direction to the manager.