We need an independent inquiry into DCFS

  • The Sessions House: home of Bermuda’s parliament and courts

    The Sessions House: home of Bermuda’s parliament and courts

  • Scott Pearman, the OBA contender in Paget East (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

    Scott Pearman, the OBA contender in Paget East (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

It is welcome news that the Attorney-General, responding to last year’s stinging criticism by Bermuda’s Court of Appeal, has finally appointed a panel of litigation guardians.

However, it is astounding that the AG first refused to release the names of those she appointed and then did so only after pressure from the media. Why the secrecy?

The primary duty of litigation guardians is to protect the children who desperately need support and guidance in an unfamiliar court system.

Litigation guardians are watch-dogs for the children they represent. Their role may, and likely will, include challenging the acts or omissions of the Department of Child and Family Services.

Therefore, it is vital to ensure that litigation guardians are independent and impartial.

This is a warning that a number of other experts in this field have already made in response to the AG’s announcement.

Simply put, we must be vigilant to ensure litigation guardians do not have conflicts of interest.

Although the appointment of a panel is a first step, this does not mean that all of the other issues concerning the DCFS are resolved.

Far from it: a Band-Aid cannot heal a broken leg. Much more is needed to address the numerous concerns.

In her public statement on the scandals at the DCFS, the AG has responded that “it’s not what you say, it’s what you do”.

The Opposition agrees. For this reason, we hope the Government will now act on the One Bermuda Alliance’s longstanding and repeated request for an independent and detailed investigation by a Commission of Inquiry.

We suggest this be chaired by a judge or senior lawyer and, ideally, include commissioners from the child-protection sector and the medical profession.

Something must be done. Those with the power to do someting must act now.

Scott Pearman is the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and the MP for Paget East (Constituency 22)

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Published Jan 15, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 15, 2020 at 7:34 am)

We need an independent inquiry into DCFS

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