A staff member becoming pregnant following an affair with a resident minor is among the claims in a report on the St Michael’s School for Boys, which is now to be investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for abuse, neglect and the misuse of items meant for the home by employees.
The report, which was prompted by the April 8 death of 13-year-old Brandon Hargreaves at the Diego Martin facility, has been forwarded by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to the DPP and acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, with a request that the institution be investigated urgently.
Ramlogan announced the development at a news conference at the Parliament building, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, yesterday, during which he described the situation as “scandalous”.
The institution, including those staff members against whom accusations of abuse have been made in the report, will now be subject to criminal investigation.
The report had been forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General by Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton DeCoteau, who has been asked by the AG to levy an expedited audit on St Michael’s.
Ramlogan said he must be careful not to prejudice the outcome of the investigation but he outlined some of the allegations made in the document, including sexual relations between boys and staff members, physically harmful initiation ceremonies perpetrated on newcomers, items meant for the home being taken by staff members, outright neglect of duties and of the needs of the children and laundering and racketeering involving funds and resources.
There are claims of abuse including boys being beaten with objects, including pieces of wood. Earlier this year three boys ran away from the school claiming abuse and sought the assistance of the media for alternative shelter.
“I take a very dim view of these actions,” Ramlogan said of the report yesterday, adding that he was calling on Ag Commissioner Williams to give the matter the priority it deserves.
The AG said allegations have been made that a member of staff, in the face of protest by some colleagues, took one of the young residents to her home, following which, the staff member became pregnant and questions were raised as to the paternity of the child that resulted.
“There has never been any investigation into that allegation,” Ramlogan said.
In other cases, boys have been taken to hotel rooms to “rendezvous”, Ramlogan said the report claims.
There have also been photographs of boys’ private parts taken with cellular telephones and in some cases where the children have rebelled as a result of the abuse, they have been sent to the Youth Training Centre (YTC) under the guise that they had caused some type of trouble, the AG said.
With respect to the death of Hargreaves, who was said to have been involved in a fight with another boy when he suffered a fatal fall, Ramlogan said the reports claims that two supervisors were present just outside the dormitory room where the incident occurred and chose to ignore the fight.
Staff members frequently ignore such occurrences, the report has claimed, and in his letter yesterday to DPP Roger Gaspard, Ramlogan stated that conflicting reports have arisen in the account of Hargreaves’ death.
The initiation ceremonies allegedly carried out on newcomers include bleach being poured on their heads, sheets being used to cover their heads while they slept and paper being placed between their toes and set alight.
These acts of initiation have in some cases led to violence, including stabbings, Ramlogan said.
“The report itself has caused me the greatest distress, alarm and concern,” Ramlogan said.
Ramlogan said he will deal with this matter in the same “clinical” way that he dealt with the death by Caesarean section of baby Simeon, which is now also the subject of a criminal investigation by the DPP.
Baby Simeon died after sustaining a wound to the head during delivery at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital on March 1, 2014.
what prompted the report:
On April 8, 2014, 13-year-old St Michael’s School for Boys resident, Brandon Hargreaves, suffered a fatal blow to the head when he fell in his dormitory room.
Conflicting accounts have emerged on the incident, among them that Hargreaves and another boy were involved in a fight when the fall occurred.
The child is said to have died of his injuries around 10.25 p.m. that night at the St James Medical Complex, but there have also been conflicting reports as to the time that the injury was suffered and the time he was taken to hospital.
An autopsy revealed the teenager died as a result of haemorrhaging of the brain caused by the trauma suffered when his head hit the concrete floor of his dorm room.
Hargreaves’ short life was unhappily eventful. At age 12, he was found living in a kennel with a dangerous dog at a home along Upper Valley Road, Cascade.
He was rescued and treated for dog bites at the Port of Spain General Hospital, where it was also discovered that he had been beaten with a blunt instrument.
Police had been told that on the night of July 18, the boy was accused of misbehaving and as a result, he was denied dinner, stripped naked and put in the kennel as punishment by two male relatives.
Hargreaves was removed by the State from the home of his relatives and placed in the St Michael’s School for Boys.