One day after saying that there was not enough evidence for the administration to act, Town Clerk Royston King yesterday dismissed the constabulary officer who is accused of sexually abusing a juvenile in the custody of City Constabulary for misconduct.
King also made the decision yesterday – two months after the matter surfaced – to contact the Guyana Police Force’s ‘A’ Division Commander Marlon Chapman for assistance with the investigation.
Chapman told Stabroek News that immediately after receiving the request from the Town Clerk, he dispatched an investigator. He noted that the matter had not been brought to his attention by the city administration before yesterday.
King had told a statutory council meeting on Monday that despite the “enormous publicity” given to the case, it was a matter of “mere allegation” up to that point.
However, in a letter, dated October 17, 2017 and signed by King, the Lance Corporal was informed that he was dismissed with immediate effect for “gross misconduct between August 22 and August 23, 2017 at the Regent Street Outpost where you engaged in a sexual act with a juvenile.”
Also dismissed yesterday was the Corporal who reported the alleged incident. The Corporal, who admitted to witnessing the incident, was dismissed for “dereliction of duty between August 22 and August 23, 2017.”
According to his dismissal letter, though he stated that he saw the Lance Corporal engaging in a sexual act with a juvenile that was in the custody of the City Constabulary, he took no action.
“Further, you made no entry of the occurrence in the station diary,” the letter added. According to a statement provided to the Council’s Legal Affairs and Security Committee, the Corporal reported what he witnessed to the Assistant Superintendent on the morning of August 23, after which the matter was reported to the Chief Constable, Town Clerk and Mayor.
At this point, despite the provisions of the Protection of Children Act, no contact was made with the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA); instead, the alleged victim, who is 15, was taken to the office of the Town Clerk, where he was questioned in the presence of other city officers.
The Act specifically notes at Section 7 (1) that “where a person has direct information that a child is or may be in need 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 for this reason that several child rights activists are calling for the Town Clerk and other city officers to be held accountable. One such activist is Vidyaratha Kissoon, who is calling for King’s dismissal or resignation over the matter.
“From my reading of the Stabroek News and subsequent reports, I am appalled that the M&CC further traumatised a child. The Mayor and City Council has no mandate to investigate child abuse. 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. Charges can be instituted under Section 7 of the Child Protection Act. We already have an issue with a City Councillor who has unresolved allegations of child sexual abuse against him,” Kissoon said, while adding that the City Council needs to implement a child protection policy under guidance from the Childcare and Protection Agency.
Also concerned is head of Red Thread, longtime activist Karen de Souza. de Souza told Stabroek News that in her estimation, the city constabulary acted outside of its mandate and outside of the law.
“While it doesn’t clearly say so, you don’t have a juvenile recounting this thing three or four times. The intent is to protect the complainant. The whole point of the law is to be more sensitive. The complainant should not be made to recount the story several times, which is why CPA is working with several non-governmental organisations to set up interviewing centres so that the story only has to be recounted one time and is video recorded,” she explained.
She also found it strange that the matter was not handed over to the police force and the victim was asked to be present for a “confrontation” between him and the alleged perpetrator.
“Even before this law, it is unlikely that a juvenile complainant would be made to face the perpetrator. The proceedings are conducted in such a manned as to protect the complainant from the perpetrator,” she stressed.
de Souza directed this newspaper to Section 42 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act, which says that “where a report is made of an offence under this Act at no point during the investigation shall the complainant be required to recount the complaint or any part of it, in the presence of the accused unless the complainant wants to do so.”
Section 42 (2) further notes that the complainant “shall not be required to view or be in the presence of any person referred to in the complaint as having perpetrated any offence under this Act save for the purposes of an identification parade and then only- by way of audio visual link; by way of a two way mirror; or in any other manner sensitive to the complainant’s well-being.”
Despite these provisions, the complainant in this case was made to recount the incident at least twice and then released and directed to return for a “confrontation.”
Questions have also been raised about the legal validity of the statements taken from the complainant.
Councillors within the Legal Affairs Committee on questioning the Chief Constable learnt that the statement was made outside of the presence of a social worker or the child’s guardian.
The guardian, his mother, later refused to sign the statement and told the constables that she did not want the child in her home as he was causing problems between her and her husband.
Divisional Commander Chapman was asked by Stabroek News to explain the procedure under which statements are normally taken in such situations. He explained that in matters of this nature, the requirement is that a social worker is around when the child is questioned and that someone must be there to sign with the child.
He further explained that if the allegation includes sexual penetration, then a medical certificate is required. “The requirement is that the victim be escorted to the medical officer,” he stressed.
Asked at which point the CPA becomes involved, Chapman noted that most times it is informed before the police, so he was not sure of the procedure under which the CPA is called in.
Though it has been reported that the child is now in protective custody of the CPA, whose officers have investigated the matter, Stabroek News has been unable to confirm this with CPA head Ann Greene.
Asked if the two month delay in notifying the police will affect the quality of the investigation, Chapman said he “he preferred not to answer that question.”