Civil servant accused of assault
A government employee has been accused of assaulting a teenage girl who refused to board a flight to the United States.
The civil servant is alleged in an official document seen by The Royal Gazette to have assaulted the 17-year-old at LF Wade International Airport.
A police spokesman said last night: “The Bermuda Police Service can confirm that an official report has been made regarding this alleged incident and the matter is currently being investigated.
“As such, no further comment can be made at this time.”
The girl had no legal representation at the time of the alleged assault last Wednesday but is now represented by law firm Marshall Diel & Myers.
MDM said in a letter to The Royal Gazette, sent in response to questions, that it was contacted by a member of the public about the alleged assault last Friday and a second person later reported the same allegation.
The letter added: “We were then contacted by litigation guardian Tiffanne Thomas. She was not involved in the case but had received the same reports and asked if we could check on the girl and represent her if required.”
The letter said that MDM lawyer Saul Dismont spoke to the girl on Friday afternoon and she asked him to represent her.
It added that the girl repeated the allegation of assault and claimed that it happened when she complained that she did not want to be sent to an overseas secure treatment centre.
Three sources said the youngster was being forced to return to the institution as part of the Department of Child and Family Services’ psychoeducational programme.
One source, who spoke to the girl, said the teenager was earlier at the same US centre but told Department of Child and Family Services staff she did not want to go back because it was “horrific”.
The source added: “She is not even allowed to whistle, hum or sing.”
The girl was at the airport with two government employees when the assault is alleged to have taken place.
The youngster was using her iPad and wearing headphones when the civil servant was said to have told her to board the flight.
The government employee was said to have taken the iPad and headphones when the girl refused to get on the plane.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked for them back and reached out to retrieve them, which is when the assault is alleged to have taken place.
The civil servant is understood to have called police after the alleged incident and officers attended.
The police took the youngster to Hamilton Police Station and then to one of the department’s care homes.
MDM said Mr Dismont attended the children’s home on Friday afternoon and was invited in to see her.
The letter added: “When he asked the girl whether she wanted him to represent her, she responded that she did.
“At that moment, she became our client.”
The letter said that as the child gave instructions to the lawyer outside the home, a DCFS supervisor told her to go back inside, told Mr Dismont to leave and accused him of trespassing.
The staff member called police and Mr Dismont did the same in an effort “to prohibit the department’s attempt to prevent our client from giving him instructions about an alleged assault”.
Police, DCFS director Alfred Maybury and a legal aid-funded lawyer all arrived at the scene.
The legal aid lawyer said he was there to represent the girl at Mr Maybury’s request.
Police brought the girl back outside and she confirmed that she wanted Mr Dismont to represent her.
The law firm applied on Friday afternoon for the teenager to become a ward of the Supreme Court to prevent her being taken abroad without representations being made on her behalf and for Ms Thomas to be appointed as her litigation guardian.
A hearing is expected to take place this week to decide if she has to return to the US institution.
The MDM letter said: “In the meantime, we have asked that all staff involved in the airport incident be prohibited from having any contact with our client.”
The civil servant and Mr Maybury declined to comment on Sunday.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Legal Affairs, which includes the DCFS, said: “The ministry is aware of this incident and takes note of the allegations raised in the correspondence provided to The Royal Gazette.
“We will review and determine the appropriate action to obtain the outcome that is in the best interest of the child and all involved.”
The Family Court has for decades approved requests from DCFS to send youngsters to schools and institutions overseas when social workers have decided they had exhausted all available on-island services.
Hundreds have gone abroad but only a fraction of them have had an independent lawyer and a child advocate, known as a litigation guardian, to represent them.
MPs heard in March that 17 boys and three girls received treatment at various overseas centres in 2018 for a “complexity of issues” that involved mental disorders.
• 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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