Wednesday 25 November, 2020

Boy, 16, sexually and physically abused as ward of state, awarded $2M

A 16-year-old boy who suffered years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse while in the state's care, has been awarded $2 million dollars in compensation.

The boy's name will be withheld to protect his identity as he is a minor.

On Monday, Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams delivered her 92-page judgement on a case which she described as "disheartening". She ordered that the $2 million dollar compensation be placed in a trust until the victim is 18-years-old with the administration falling under the Children's Authority, the child's mother and a Child's Advocate from the Solicitor General's Office.

The boy and his mother were represented by Senior Counsel Anand Ramlogan, Alvin Pariagsingh and Ganesh Saroop instructed by Jared Jagroo.

It all started when the boy was put into foster care at the age of 9. He and his sister were virtual complainants in a criminal case against his mother. On September 18 2012, the woman appeared in court and the boy was taken away to the Ferndean’s Place Children’s Home. On September 26, the home said they were unable to care for him due to behavioural issues and he was taken back to court. The boy was then placed in the St Dominic’s Children’s Home. The very next day, September 27 2012, St Dominic's made the same complaint and the child was again transferred, this time to the St Michael's School for Boys. 

On June 30th 2014, the boy's status changed from being “remanded” to being “committed to the St Michael’s Boys Industrial School with effect from 30.6.14 until he attains the age of 18 years.” The committal order was made following his mother’s conviction and sentencing for the criminal offence of wilful abandonment and neglect of the child.

During his stay at St Michael's, the child was examined by a consultant Psychiatrist due to his unusual behaviour including insatiable appetite, anger, cognitive disabilities, speech, sleep and motor impairments. He was subsequently diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome which is characterised by low muscle tone, short stature, incomplete sexual development, cognitive disabilities, speech, sleep and motor impairments, chronic feelings of insatiable hunger and a slowed metabolism that can lead to morbid obesity. Behavioural problems are also common including stubborn, angry, controlling and manipulative behaviours, temper tantrums especially when denied food, intolerance for changes in routine, obsessive-compulsive or repetitive behaviours, anxiety and skin picking.

In July 2015, the Children’s Authority conducted a multidisciplinary assessment of the boy which revealed that the poor knowledge and understanding of his medical condition resulted in inadequate management and care for him.At St Michael's he was bullied and faced sexual harassment from wards of the school as well as staff. Meanwhile, although a treatment plan was completed on November 26 2015, recommendations that were identified by the Children's Authority were not implemented due to a lack of resources.

In response to an escalating severity of abuse, on or around the 6th October 2016, the child was transferred to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital (“St. Ann’s”). The transfer was supposed to be a temporary arrangement as a result of the renovations and physical conditions at St Michael’s. However, he remained at St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital until the filing of the injunction in 2017 and the Court’s order for his removal.

The judge eventually ordered that he be placed in the care of the Children's Authority and the state did not object. However, the boy's attorneys sought compensation for what he endured.

Justice Quinlan-Williams also ruled that the boy be reintegrated with his family, at the discretion of the Children's Authority. She noted that the child's mother paid her debt to society but acknowledged that she was not financially capable to care for him. The compensation is meant to help.

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