Riot at St Michaels School

STONED BOOTH: The guard booth on the compound of St Michael's School for Boys.

In a democratic society such as ours there is a fundamental presumption that the State has a responsibility to ensure that certain critical services are provided to its citizens.

Technically referred to as “public goods”, these services include water, electricity, security and health-care. However, on the basis of a very recent revelation of gross inefficiency in the social service sector, as reported in the daily newspapers, I am driven to express my personal perspective on the matter.

This commentary is based on the harrowing experiences of “a disabled child suffering from multiple physical, psychological and behavioural impairments”, as stated by Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams. The boy’s mother, in her courageous efforts to pursue the best interest of her son, was also the subject of extensive abuse by the system.

It was reported that the young boy, between the years 2012 and 2019, was victimised by the State apparatus having been consigned, at various times, to several institutions including St Michael’s Boys’ Industrial School, St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital and the Children’s Authority.

It is necessary to note that the boy’s victimisation ranged from lack of appropriate care and attention to incidents of brutal physical and sexual assaults.

He turns 18 this year and his mother, having filed a High Court action against the State, was awarded $2 million by Justice Quinlan-Williams against which the State has filed an appeal. The boy is reportedly now in the care of the Children’s Authority.

What is most astounding about this very untenable state of affairs is the unbelievable failure of the official decision-makers who have presided over this matter at varying times, for a period in excess of five years.

It is very clear, however, that there has been an obvious failure by the officials to seriously address the real needs of the young man by adopting a collaborative approach in clinically identifying his condition, appropriately prescribing his treatment and ensuring that he is provided with all the support and care necessary for his best level of social functioning.

In these circumstances, it will be most interesting to know on what basis has the State appealed the decision of the judge to issue the monetary award to the boy’s mother, on account of the cruel treatment to which her son had been subjected for such an extended period, at the hands of the social service system. The most recent update is that the Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in the matter.

I trust that deserved justice will not again be elusive in this case.

Keith Renaud

Point Fortin

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