Although Sherod Duncan has been one of the most vocal proponents for accountability and transparency since his election to the Georgetown city council, he admits that he may have failed to adhere to the high standards he has set.
As Chairperson of the council’s Legal Affairs and Securities Committee, Duncan was one of the persons made aware of the alleged sexual assault of a minor by a city constabulary officer. He was made aware of this alleged assault on September 15 but did not himself make contact with the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) or the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
“In hindsight, I don’t think it ever entered into the mind of the committee that they should take the onus of calling in the police. It was a misjudgment on the part of the committee,” Duncan told Stabroek News in an interview.
He also expressed a willingness to submit himself to legal judgement of his actions if it becomes necessary.
“If there is a position that the law has on the matter, then the law has to be followed. I’m willing to submit myself to what the law dictates,” he maintained, even as he stressed that no action or inaction from the committee precluded the city administration from calling in the police.
The Protection of Children Act specifically notes at Section 7 (1) that “where a person has direct information that a child is or may be in need of protective intervention, the person shall immediately report the matter to the CPA director, a probation officer appointed by the Public Service Commission or a Police Officer.”
It adds that a person with this knowledge who fails to report is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $50,000.
It is this provision which now has activists calling for the dismissal or resignation of Town Clerk Royston King and Mayor Patricia Chase-Green.
Two citizens, Don Singh and Jonathan Yearwood, took to the streets to protest the inaction of King and Chase-Green.
According to Singh, the Mayor and Town Clerk are accessories to a crime because for two months they sat on information related to an alleged child rapist and did nothing.
“No report to the Child Protection Agency, no report to the police, no report to the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions],” he stressed.
King has refused to respond to questions on the matter, saying that he would be presenting a statement on his actions at tomorrow’s statutory council meeting.
Another activist, Vidyaratha Kissoon, has extended the call for accountability to every officer who had knowledge of the alleged incident.
“All of those, including the Town Clerk, who were part of this incident and did not report the matter to the Childcare and Protection Agency or the police should be immediately dismissed or should resign,” Kissoon told Stabroek News.
However, with the matter having been reported in at least one section of the media since early Septem-ber, those who were aware could extend to every citizen who reads a newspaper as well as to the Director of the CPA and senior officers of the GPF.
Stabroek News asked Divisional Commander Marlon Chapman if he had read or been made aware of the alleged incident before the Town Clerk called him on October 17.
According to Chapman, the Council has its own police arm over which he does not have control.
“Reading something in the newspaper is one thing but we cannot compel the city council to act. We stepped in as soon as they contacted us,” Chapman said.
Last Tuesday, roughly two months after the alleged assault took place, King contacted the police and the accused rank, who was also fired, was detained by the police. He remains in custody.
Stabroek News has been told that he is still assisting with investigations and the case file has been sent for legal advice.
Another rank, who allegedly witnessed the assault and later reported it to his superiors, including Chief Constable Andrew Foo, who in turn reported it to the Mayor and Town Clerk, was also dismissed for dereliction of duty.
The fate of the alleged victim is less clear. Stabroek News understands that he was released from the custody of the city on the afternoon of August 23 and was found still living on the street on October 7, when he was taken to the Brickdam Police Station to make a report and allegedly transferred to the custody of the CPA.
Stabroek News reached out to the CPA in an attempt to confirm these details but was told by the Deputy Director that while the child was presently in its care, she could not state when he came to be in their care nor how old the child actually was. He was said to be 15.
She also noted that CPA policy precludes her from revealing who actually or finally reported the incident to the agency.
Floyd Redder, the CPA’s Administrative Manager (Child Abuse), specifically noted that to answer any of Stabroek News’ questions would “be premature.”
Meanwhile, although both the alleged perpetrator is in custody and the alleged witness also dismissed, the city council’s Legal Affairs Committee is continuing to investigate.
“We will continue to investigate to have a clear picture of what happened and who failed,” Duncan said. The continuing investigation will take into account the events which took place in the Town Clerk’s office on the morning of August 23 and statements from the five other constabulary officers who should have been on duty on the night of the alleged assault but who were absent from the recounting of both the victim and witness.