A man who spent 11 years in jail on a murder charge walked free yesterday because the State could not find three witnesses —including it’s main witness — to testify in the matter.
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Probe into St Michael home: Cops interview abused teenager
Hours before he met with investigators probing the allegations of sexual and physical abuse at the St Michael's School for Boys, Diego Martin, the abused teenager who confirmed the wrongdoing by staff members said he was now "in a better place" after having gone public with his story. The teenager, 19, who lives in Port-of-Spain, made the statement as he waited to meet with police last Friday. The teenager was met at the Guardian Media Ltd office by three officers from the Western Division.
He and his boss were later taken to an undisclosed in Port-of-Spain for the interview, which lasted close to three hours. In a phone interview yesterday, the teenager confirmed that he had given police a sworn statement and was ready and willing to meet with police again any time. Asked yesterday if he was having second thoughts about revealing the abuse he suffered during his year at the school, or about meeting with police, the teenager replied, "No, I'm good."
Investigators were eager to meet with him, as he is the first person thus far to come forward and testify about the kind and level of abuse he suffered while at the school. The investigation was launched after Attorney General Anand Ramlogan revealed the findings of a committee appointed to probe the death of Brandon Hargreaves. Hargreaves, 14, of Cascade, died on April 8, after he suffered a head injury. Initial reports said he was injured while trying to drop-kick another child.
Speaking in Parliament on Friday, Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Clifton de Coteau reiterated plans by the board of St Michael's to revisit its current arrangements governing the school. Government shares responsibility for the school with the Anglican diocese. Adding that an independent auditing firm had been contracted to do a management audit of the school, de Coteau said a professional analysis will also be done on the files of all residents.
The findings will be "used by suitable consultants hired by the ministry psychologists to build individual care and rehabilitation plans for each resident." The minister said the matter was being dealt with in a thorough, open and transparent manner. He was answering a question from Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne about the measures being taken to address the issues highlighted in the report and subsequent allegations.
Revealing that the Children's Authority had received 68 calls between January and June about neglect, physical abuse, sexual impropriety and psychological abuse, de Coteau said a system had been set up to facilitate the reporting and referral of such calls.
Among those organisations to whom the reports were referred were the police, the National Family Services, Child Guidance Clinic, Rape Crisis Centre, the Social Welfare Division of the Ministry of People and Social Development, the Victim Witness and Support Unit, and the Student Support Services Division of the Ministry of Education. The minister said the Children's Authority did not have the power to take the lead in cases of neglect and endangerment because the Children's Authority Act had not been fully proclaimed.
Hence, the National Family Services Division, which is part of his ministry, is legally responsible or children in need of care and protection, and intervenes in matters brought to their attention. For January to June 2014, 25 cases of child neglect and endangerment were addressed. Efforts are being made to ensure the authority becomes fully operational by September, he said.