Charges likely against NOC staffers implicated in abuse -Crime Chief

Criminal charges are likely to be laid against four staff members of the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) at the centre of physical and sexual abuse allegations made by four girls who were removed from the institution by the Child Care & Protection Agency (CC&PA).

Crime Chief Leslie James has told Stabroek News that there is a “high likelihood” that charges will be laid against the four persons, one of whom is employed on a part-time basis.

According to James, two of the staff members were questioned on Monday and another two were questioned yesterday and they have all denied the allegations. The case file is expected to be completed shortly and sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for advice on charges.

Meanwhile, Stabroek News was told that the CC&PA has completed a report from its investigation and it has been handed over to Minister of Human Services Jennifer Webster. Efforts to contact the minister yesterday proved futile.

The High Court has ordered that the girls remain in the protective custody of the CC&PA, which applied for their release after official complaints by their parents of ill-treatment by named officials at the facility. The girls were among those who escaped from the NOC in March, for which they were later charged. They had alleged that they were forced to have sex with some male inmates who had found their hideout and took food for them during the two days they managed to avoid recapture.

They had also reported being treated horribly in what they called the “detention room” at the facility—described as the “quiet room” by officials—where they have said that apart from being placed in the room for days almost naked, they were also denied food and forced to defecate and urinate in a bucket that remained in the room unemptied.

There are also reports of a special hose being used to administer corporal punishment and of regular cavity searches being conducted.

“They have detailed a whole host of physical and psychological abuse… from what they are saying, they were treated terribly and horribly and that should not have been,” a knowledgeable source had told this newspaper.

In addition, the CC&PA is continuing to work out care plans individually for the girls as it determines whether they could be returned to their parents.

All four of the girls, according to their mothers, were sentenced to the NOC following multiple reports of wandering and officials are now trying to establish if their home environments are conducive for their return. Working on rebuilding their self-esteem is also said to be high on the agenda.

Following a fire and mass breakout in 2012, a Board of Inquiry (BOI) was set up to investigate and the final report was recently completed and handed over to the Minister of Youth Dr Frank Anthony, who has said he would share its findings after going through it.

Preliminary findings had indicated that most of the officials working at the institution at the time were untrained and unqualified for the positions they held. Reports are that this situation remains the same currently and even Dr Anthony had admitted at a recent press conference that it is difficult to attract trained and qualified persons to work at NOC.

Some observers have suggested that the entire institution should be closed down since it is not reforming the young people sent there but Anthony has said plans are on stream to reform the facility and some of these include building separate facilities for the boys and girls.

And as recommended by the BoI in its preliminary report, the operations at the NOC are regularly inspected by a visiting team and soon parents would also be able to visit their children once a week.

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