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Bishop Berkely calls in St Michael’s board

By CAROL MATROO Thursday, July 17 2014

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CALL TO ORDER: Head of the Anglican Church in Trinidad and Tobago Bishop Clyde Berkely has called in the board of the St Michael's Home for Boys, whic...
CALL TO ORDER: Head of the Anglican Church in Trinidad and Tobago Bishop Clyde Berkely has called in the board of the St Michael's Home for Boys, whic...

ANGLICAN Bishop Clyde Berkely wants a meeting with the Board of the St Michael’s Home for Boys, “in short order”, to address a damning report on the establishment which was made public by Attorney General Ramlogan on Tuesday.

St Michael’s is an institution that works with troubled boys who have been recommended by the courts for various delinquent behaviours. Ramlogan’s charges, from a report of an investigation done on the operation of that Home, include allegations of sexual abuse, theft of inmates’ property by staff and general neglect including ignoring fights among the boys.

One such fight led to the death of inmate Brandon Hargreaves, 14, in April last year which triggered the probe that led to the damning report which made stinging allegations against the Home. This led the AG to call on the Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gasperd to commence criminal investigations.

“I will be looking at the matter more in depth because these are very serious allegations that have been made and of course I am very concerned about it,” said Berkely, the head of the local Anglican Church. His diocese shares responsibility for the operation of St Michael’s with the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development.

“I hope to meet with the board in short order to begin to address the situation to take whatever action must be taken to mitigate the alarm that has been raised.” The Anglican Bishop repeated to Newsday yesterday that he was not aware of any complaint made against anyone at St Michael’s.

“That is a point of view that I have not heard of,” he said. “Consequently, in any event, the board might only have a reporting relationship in terms of reporting any infractions by the manager to the administrator, but nothing has come to us in that way to take any action.”

“The thing is if someone sees you at the side of the road and says something to you that is not a complaint so to speak because when the time comes and you ask a question...who is my accuser, who is making the accusation...so I think in the sphere of general conversation people might have said things, but we have had no formal complaint about anyone,” Berkeley said.

The Bishop said he would be contacting chairman of the board Deacon Eric Thompson to make the point raised.

Meanwhile, an official at the home yesterday confirmed the allegations of sexual abuse, violence, theft and violent initiation rites at the institution as raised in the Hargreaves report. The source said these activities have been on the increase over the past four years, especially after the daily staff leaves for the day, while a certain official turned a blind eye.

“Everything that happens negatively happens when certain people are not there after school.

“I was aware of what was happening. It is documented, it is written but nobody does anything. I have reported it to the board, I told them that this would come back to haunt them and it has,” the official said.

The source said time after time the board was told a certain individual was responsible for what was happening to the boys because of the treatment meted out to them.

“Some of the things this person told the boys...I said if they were not suitable for the job then they should not be here. This is a school for rehabilitation and if you don’t want to be around these types of children, then you should not be here. These are troubled children and I would love to know why that person is still here,” the official said.

The official said all the boys’ extra curricula activities were halted or taken away, including sport.

“The children had sport and culture but this was destroyed. The football field at the back has been closed off. They have no pan side, nothing again. The things that kept the children going were taken away so after that what would you expect? There were programmes for classes, physical training, sports, but all of that was stopped. Speaking at the weekly press briefing yesterday, Commissioner Williams said, “I have not yet received the letter from the Attorney General. Once it would have been sent to my office, I would assume it would in fact reach me sometime shortly, but I have not yet received the letter from the Attorney General.”

Asked if police have investigated matters relating to the home, Williams said officers of the West End police station have investigated matters relating to the home in addition to the death of Hargreaves.

Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, during an interview yesterday, said his job was to ensure that the education system ensured that no child was sent to St Michael’s. “Our job is to ensure that children are nurtured and educated so they could become mature citizens and not be at that level of ‘dysfunctionality’.”

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