Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top cop waiting on St Michael’s letter

ACTING Police Commissioner Stephen Williams said yesterday he was as yet unaware of the details of a letter sent to his office by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan calling for an investigation into St Michael’s School for Boys.

Ramlogan said on Tuesday he had sent a letter to Williams and also to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Roger Gaspard, for a criminal probe into the Diego Martin facility, on which a recent report has made claims of sexual abuse of the boys housed there, neglect and theft of school property by staff.

“I’m unaware of the content of that news conference and I’m not yet aware of the content of that letter from the AG,” Williams said at the police weekly news conference.

“I hope that it will, in fact, reach me some time shortly but I have not yet received that letter from the AG.”

The report was prompted by the death in April of this year of 13-year-old Brandon Hargreaves at the school.

Accounts so far are that the child was fighting with another boy when he fell and suffered a fatal blow to head on the concrete floor of his dormitory. The report claims that two supervisors were present just outside the room at the time and chose to do nothing—a norm during fights between the young residents.

A report into the incident and the operations of the estate, from which three young runaways earlier this year sought refuge via the media, was ordered by Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton DeCoteau.

The AG has also called on DeCoteau to immediately initiate an audit on the school, in light of claims of laundering and racketeering by staff.

The plight of “forgotten” boys at institutions like the St Michael’s School for Boys is not new to the public domain and was highlighted last year by Prof Selwyn Ryan, in a reported commissioned by Government and tabled in Parliament in March.

The Diego Martin estate facility, started by the Anglican Church 100 years ago, is now under criminal investigation, following a newly-released report that alleges sexual depravity by staff, neglect, and theft of school resources.

Ramlogan had on Tuesday stated that the latest report has alleged of an affair between a resident minor and a staff member, with the minor being taken to the employee’s home and subsequently becoming pregnant.

The new report has presented a more detailed picture of what may be happening at the school but Ryan last year stated:

“Unfortunately some teachers are suspected of being paedophiles and have abused youngsters who in turn abuse those younger than they are.”

Claims have also been made in the latest report that boys have been taken to hotel rooms to “rendezvous” and that violent initiation ceremonies are sometimes forced on newcomers.

Ryan’s report stated:

“The manager advised that reforms need to be done ‘to prevent our youth from coming to St Michael’s or to ensure the lads did not graduate to the adult prisons’. The behaviour of the lads has apparently become worse.”

He also stated: “Of the 493 remanded lads, 266 are African, 145 are mixed, while 82 are Indian.”

SIDEBAR: Intervention, please:

Anglican Bishop, Rev Claude Berkeley, says he is not convinced all the allegations disclosed by the AG were true, though he was “shocked” by some of the allegations.

Speaking on TV6 News last night, Berkeley said the Anglican Board has investigated allegations of abuse in the past but has never found proof that the claims were true.

He said the board no longer had the authority to hire, fire or discipline working members of staff, who are public servants but he felt there was a “certain lethargy” involved in running of the home.

Berkeley said there must be more urgent intervention by the State into the operations of institutions such as St Michael’s.