TWO million dollars in compensation has been awarded to a 16-year-old boy who was the victim of constant bullying and sexually abuse while being kept at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.
This had occurred for more than a year before the courts intervened and ordered that he immediately be removed from the facility and placed in the care of the Children’s Authority.
The compensation awarded to the boy is to be held in trust until he turns 18 years of age and the administration of the trust fund was put in the responsibility of the authority, his mother and a child advocate from the Solicitor General’s Department.
High Court judge Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams made the order on July 12, and delivered her written ruling at the San Fernando High Court on Monday.
The boy and his mother were represented by Senior Counsel Anand Ramlogan, Alvin Pariagsingh, Ganesh Saroop and Jared Jagroo. In 2017, the attorneys had filed an injunction on the mother’s behalf, complaining of his detention at the hospital.
They were seeking to have him removed from the institution since he was continuously being bullied and sexually assaulted by other inmates. The judge eventually ruled in their favour, ordering that he be placed in the care of the authority. This order was complied with by the State.
However, Ramlogan and the other attorneys pursued the case further, seeking compensation for the boy based on what he was made to endure while at the hospital.
In delivering her 92-page ruling, Justice Quinlan-Williams described the boy’s story as “disheartening.”
In 2014 at the age of nine, he was placed in the St Michael’s School for Boys after his mother was convicted of wilfully abandoning and neglecting him. He was eventually diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and later transferred to the St Ann’s Hospital. While there, his mother claimed he was sexually assaulted by another inmate in a bathroom.
Even while at the St Michael’s School for Boys, the woman alleged that he was being constantly being sexually harassed by staff, bullied and made to perform sexual favours by other residents.
In October 2016, he was referred to the St Ann’s Hospital for psychiatric evaluation and from then until the court intervened the following year, he remained a patient at the institution.
In delivering her ruling, Justice Quinlan-Williams described the position taken by the State that the Constitution should not and did not apply to the boy as “brazen”.
“We expect a person to look a certain way, learn a certain way, speak a certain way, behave a certain way and react a certain way.
“What happens where those norms are not present, and our ideals are not met? Are they less deserving of society’s protection and care? Do we simply abandon and discard them?” asked the judge.
“What if that person is a child of nine years of age? What if that nine-year-old was removed from his family by the operation of our law because the biological parent was found to be criminally wanting in relation to the care and welfare of that child? This case is about all these troubling issues,” Justice Quinlan-Williams stated.
The claims of sexual abuse were denied by the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA). However, the judge said what was not in dispute was that while at St Michael’s, he was the victim of various forms of abuse and that the failure to stop that abuse was in breach of his Constitutional rights.
She said the State, with the financial oversight, legal and moral responsibility for the boy ought to have provided special accommodation for children like the boy who suffered from medical and physical disabilities, pointing out that to date, the State has failed to allocate the necessary resources to establish appropriate facilities for the care of mentally and/or disabled children.