The teenager who came forward to report allegations of sexual and physical abuse and negligence at the St Michael’s School for Boys, Diego Martin, says he is willing to give the police a statement on the matter which is currently under investigation. The 19-year-old victim said he had remained silent before because he thought no one would believe him. But after a probe into the death at the school of Brandon Hargreaves, the teenager said he was ready to speak out.
Referring to the teenager’s T&T Guardian interview, during which he confirmed the allegations in the report, chairman of the Child Protection Task Force Diana Mahabir-Wyatt said: “It sounds entirely believable. It is consistent with the findings of the investigative committee.”Commenting on that report, she said: “The report is accurate. We have known for years that things were wrong at the home. It's horrible.” Asked to comment on the statement she made just after Hargreaves’ death that there was no need for further investigation, Mahabir-Wyatt said: “No outside investigation at that time was warranted because there was already an internal investigation going on. “The ministry had set up an investigative committee and it was not appropriate to appoint another investigative committee when that was going on.”
There are now reports that Hargreaves was beaten to death by another boy at the home in a fight which was ignored by supervisors sitting nearby. But at the time Mahabir-Wyatt was also reported as saying: “Think back over Brandon and his mom. Accidents do happen and boys do battle each other and from the report Brandon was trying to kickbox somebody and fell backwards. “Well, I have seen my own son try to do that. Unfortunately Brandon hit his head. My son didn’t. He just broke a couple of ribs at that age so I am too practical to read into making accusations against the home because of boys being boys.”
The Anglican Church shares responsibility for St Michael's with the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development. Anglican Bishop Clyde Berkley has promised to meet with the St Michael’s board to address the contents of the report. However, Mahabir-Wyatt said: "I don't think the Anglican Church is exactly guilt-free either." In an interview over the weekend, Berkley promised a statement would be issued very soon. Calls to his cellphone went unanswered yesterday.
Brandon Hargreaves enquiry
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan revealed the contents of the report in the Senate on July 15 and sent copies to the acting Police Commissioner (CoP), Stephen Williams, and Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard, asking for a criminal investigation.
Williams confirmed that a police superintendent was appointed on July 16 to investigate and Gaspard was also reviewing the report.
Hargreaves, 14, of Cascade, died on April 8 after hitting his head on the concrete floor of his dormitory during an attempt to drop kick another child. He had been sent to the school by the court.
During the inquiry into Hargreaves’ death by a three-member team set up by the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, issues of sexual impropriety, physical abuse, neglect, theft and gross misconduct were highlighted.
Asked about the matter during last Thursday’s reception to celebrate the life and work of Nelson Mandela at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar promised it would be investigated. “The allegations, if true, are very shocking allegations. It’s very tragic and shocking to think that children who are already vulnerable would have been subjected to the kinds of actions that the report contains. “When there’s children concerned, it is really heart-rending. Those allegations are things you do not want to hear about, read about or see happening in any country, far less in our own country,” she said.