Call for Maybury report to be made public

  • Legal letter: lawyer Saul Dismont (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Legal letter: lawyer Saul Dismont (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Campaigners have called for the findings of an inquiry into allegations of misconduct at the island’s child protection agency to be made public.

Lawyer Saul Dismont, who wrote the letter of complaint that triggered the inquiry, said yesterday: “I would think the public would demand to see the report.”

Mr Dismont added: “I think that it’s important, after an inquiry into matters regarding the welfare of children, that the public has the opportunity to know what the results were, fully, which requires the release of the report.”

He was speaking after the Government said it would not release the results of an internal investigation into allegations that Alfred Maybury, the Director of the Department of Child and Family Services, ignored children’s complaints that staff mistreated them and that he failed to follow government financial instructions.

A government spokeswoman said the claims against Mr Maybury were “not substantiated” and he returned to work on Monday after five months’ suspension on full pay.

Mr Maybury was placed on administrative leave on August 23 last year, after Mr Dismont, acting on behalf of a boy in the care of the department, wrote to Michael Weeks, who was then the Minister of Social Development and Sport.

The six-page letter detailed how independent social worker Tiffanne Thomas had uncovered abuse and neglect claims against four DCFS staff members when she reviewed the files of the boy — referred to as “BC” to protect his identity — including an allegation that a male employee had assaulted him. Mr Dismont’s letter said it was “extraordinary” that none of the four staff members were suspended in line with departmental rules.

The letter listed 18 grievances against Mr Maybury, including that he had failed to protect the children in the agency’s care, failed to ensure the accused staff were suspended, failed to investigate the allegations against them, punished and bullied BC for reporting the abuse and allowed the accused staff to have contact with BC.

Mr Dismont said it was important that the public be told who was interviewed during the course of the inquiry into Mr Maybury’s conduct to make sure it was thorough.

He added: “That’s why we need to see the report. If the children and their families weren’t spoken to, then does that not suggest that an external inquiry would be preferable?”

The Royal Gazette revealed on Monday that allegations against two of the four employees were “substantiated” and they had returned to work.

A government spokeswoman said the two were “disciplined in accordance with the government code of conduct, discipline and misconduct procedures” and it is understood they were working under supervision.

The other two staff are still under investigation and remain on administrative leave.

Sheelagh Cooper, founder and former chairwoman of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said the fact that two of the accusations were upheld underlined the need for children involved in court proceedings to have independent representation, including a litigation guardian such as Ms Thomas, to ensure their best interests were being considered.

She added: “The department continues to take the position that such representation is not necessary and would be redundant, since their mission and mandate is to protect children.

“Regrettably, the results of the investigation prove that, at best, the department, like any agency, is fallible and, at worst, has elements that are not only incompetent, but downright dangerous to children.

“Either way, the right of a child to independent representation must be respected.”

Ms Cooper said the Government needed to reveal whether or not Mr Maybury investigated the abuse and neglect claims and, if he did not, explain why he had been returned to his post.

Ms Cooper also questioned why “those who were found to have mistreated the children also remain employed at the agency”.

She added: “It is precisely circumstances like this that lend urgency to the commitment by Government to the funding of the representation for children called for in the Children Act 1998.”

The Government tabled an amendment to the Children Act in the House of Assembly last November which the Human Rights Commission and other critics said would erode the right of vulnerable youngsters to independent legal representation in court.

A debate on the Bill was later postponed.

Mr Dismont said: “Certainly, all of those people that work with children were very relieved when they pulled that Bill because it was going to reduce the protection of the court back to the protection that was provided in England 40 years ago, which even then was found to be wholly inadequate.”

The Royal Gazette has submitted a public access to information request to the Ministry of Legal Affairs for the full report into Mr Maybury’s conduct.

A decision on the request is due by March 13.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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