A Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament has been told that none of the alleged abusers identified in the 2021 Judith Jones report into children’s homes has been removed from the residencies.
The disclosure was made yesterday as the JSC on the state’s capacity to provide support for victims of domestic violence and family conflicts met.
The possibility that victims could still be suffering at the hands of their abusers has raised concerns about the Children’s Authority of T&T’s role in protecting the vulnerable, a task which the public has been critical of in recent weeks after learning of the contents of the Jones report and the 1997 Robert Sabga report, highlighted in the media, which raised similar issues.
The Jones report, which revealed horrific sexual, physical and psychological abuse against children at the homes, was laid in the Parliament one month ago. Since then, there have been concerns and calls for justice for the victims, as well as those highlighted in the Sabga report.
The Jones report also investigated the conditions and treatment of children at both state and religious-operated homes. The findings unearthed rampant physical, psychological and sexual abuse of children.
During yesterday’s inquiry, particular focus was placed by chairman Paul Richards on the gaps at children’s homes.
“Has there been any move to ensure alleged perpetrators have been removed from those situations, and this is for the TTPS?” Richards asked.
Acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob noted that while investigations had been triggered, no alleged perpetrators were separated from any of the facilities highlighted.
He said, “The investigative team, they are in the early stages of doing the investigation and yes some persons have come forward and given statements, but have not identified persons within these homes that they can recommend to be removed immediately from the homes, that is ongoing.”
Head of the T&T Police Service’s Gender-Based Violence Unit Claire Guy-Alleyne explained that despite demands to have alleged perpetrators removed from the homes, no action has since been taken by the Children’s Authority, the sole body responsible for taking such steps.
“With respect to the Justice Jones investigation, a few of those reports are engaging the attention of the Child Protection Unit at the moment. When it comes to removing a child, we, as the investigative unit at the CPU, we would make a request for the alleged perpetrator to be removed from where the victim or the survivor is at the moment. However, when it comes to the removal, the body that is fostered with that duty under the law is the Children’s Authority,” Guy-Alleyne said.
Guy-Alleyne said it was not uncommon for the Child Protection Unit to demand the removal of a perpetrator for safety reasons.
Asked whether that demand was made in this instance, she said,
“All instances, in all instances.”
However, Acting Director of the Children’s Authority Sharon Morris-Cummings could not indicate whether the police’s demands had reached the authority.
“I am not aware that a request has been made to the authority in that regard,” Morris-Cummings said.
Since the Jones report was made public, the Children’s Authority has come under fire for failing to protect the nation’s children.
However, Morris-Cummings stated that more funding was needed to address abuse given the sharp increase in reports in recent times.
The allocation of $88 million received last year was deemed insufficient to attend to all the objectives of the authority.