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Documents seized at St Michael’s Home
Investigators probing allegations of sexual impropriety, physical abuse and gross negligence at the St Michael’s Home for Boys, Diego Martin, have executed a search warrant and seized documents and records from the administration office. Officials confirmed boxes of documents were taken from the school earlier this week. This, even as the boys remain away from the school, on a retreat.
During an interview on Tuesday at the National Operations Centre, Knowsley Building, Port-of-Spain, Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Clifton de Coteau declined comment about progress of the ongoing investigation which officials said were at a “sensitive stage.” Revealing that they had met with officials from the Statutory Authority Commission regarding action to be taken against staff from the school who were found to be liable, de Coteau said, “We don’t have the wherewithal to suspend anyone.”
The investigation was launched after Attorney General Anand Ramlogan revealed the contents of a report relating to circumstances which led to the death of teenager Brandon Hargreaves. Hargreaves, 14, of Maraval, 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.
Ramlogan released details of the report in the Senate on July 15, and later forwarded copies to the acting Police Commissioner (CoP) and Director of Public Prosecutions, asking for a criminal investigation to be carried out. CoP Stephen Williams confirmed a police Supt was appointed on July 16, to investigate the matter.
Stating that he was awaiting the review of plans at the school, de Coteau said during a meeting with the board, members indicated a desire to “return to the basics” where they offered less fortunate children a safe haven.
Admitting that things were being done in an ad hoc manner before and without any proper assessments being done on the boys being sent to the school, de Coteau said, “We are going to have this kind of scientific approach where we are going to assess the child, so we will know the nature of his challenges and if he should be sent there.”
Commending the staff for their dedication and commitment to the job, the acting National Security minister said there were staffers who were not suitably qualified or trained to deal with some of the children. He said the ministry was also moving to improve the overall operation of the school by bringing the management level, accountability and standards up to par.