Legal affairs ministry must reveal if DCFS inquiry report exists – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Legal affairs ministry must reveal if DCFS inquiry report exists

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A public authority involved in an inquiry into misconduct claims against the head of the island’s child protection agency has claimed it does not have a report on the investigation’s findings.

Gina Hurst-Maybury (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Gina Hurst-Maybury, the acting permanent secretary at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, told The Royal Gazette that a report on the 2018 investigation into Alfred Maybury, director of the Department of Child and Family Services, was not held by her ministry.

Alfred Maybury

Ms Hurst-Maybury, who is married to Mr Maybury, said the report “may be held” by the Ministry of Social Development and Seniors, which has had responsibility for the Department of Child and Family Services since November 2020.

Ms Hurst-Maybury did not respond to a question yesterday about whether she had a conflict of interest in dealing with the request because she is married to Mr Maybury.

Mr Maybury was suspended in August 2018 after he was accused of ignoring allegations of DCFS staff mistreatment of children in care.

An investigation was launched by the former Ministry of Social Development and Sports, which was responsible for the DCFS at the time.

An inquiry was also conducted by the Department of Internal Audit into claims that Mr Maybury failed to follow Government financial instructions.

The Ministry of Social Development and Sports was abolished in a Cabinet reshuffle in November 2018 and responsibility for DCFS was transferred to the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Mr Maybury returned to work in January 2019 after the Government said a “thorough investigation” found the allegations were “not substantiated”.

The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Legal Affairs that month to release the “full report into allegations of misconduct” against Mr Maybury under public access to information rules.

But the ministry refused to reveal if a report existed and claimed that to do so would “add unnecessary confusion to misinformation which is already present in the media and public domain”.

Gitanjali Gutierrez, the Information Commissioner, dismissed the claim in July after an independent review.

She said: “Keeping the existence or non-existence of the report confidential from the public does not allow the public to hold the ministry accountable.”

Ms Gutierrez ordered the ministry to “disclose the existence or non-existence” of a report by September 3.

Ms Hurst-Maybury wrote to the Gazette on that date.

She said: “The records you seek are not held by the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform; rather, to my knowledge, they may be held by the Ministry of Social Development and Seniors.”

She said she had transferred the Pati request to the Ministry of Social Development and Seniors.

Ms Gutierrez told the Gazette the letter from Ms Hurst-Maybury did not meet the requirements of her July 23 order because it failed to state whether or not the report existed.

The commissioner said she had now given the Ministry of Legal Affairs until next Tuesday to comply with the order.

The Gazette also asked Ms Gutierrez to review whether the request should have been transferred.

The Ministry of Social Development said it would provide a decision on the Pati request by October 20 – almost 34 months after it was first submitted to the Government.

The leadership at DCFS has been called into question in recent years after the suspension of Mr Maybury and the prosecution of Kennette Robinson, the deputy director, for an alleged assault on a child in May 2019.

Ms Robinson was found not guilty of assault and mistreatment after a Magistrates’ Court trial.

There has also been controversy over the department’s policy of sending children in care to overseas institutions and the failure of the Family Court to appoint litigation guardians to protect children involved in legal proceedings.

A litigation guardians’ panel was set up by the Government in December 2019.

Calls last year for an independent inquiry into DCFS were rejected.

There was no response to a request for comment yesterday from the Ministry of Legal Affairs.