Police investigate Sabga report, victims asked to come forward

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Acting Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne speaks with Newsday at her St Clair Office on Thursday. – Darren Bahaw

Police are asking victims identified in the 1997 Robert Sabga report to come forward to help them build a case against their abusers.

The head of what is now named the Special Victims Department, Snr Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne, in an interview with Newsday on Thursday, said these victims’ statements are now a critical element to tackle the child abuse outlined in the 25-year-old document.

Guy-Alleyne said most of the offences in the report are indictable, so there is no statutory limitation preventing police from taking action at any time, once there is evidence.

She said victims or survivors who think they would have been mentioned in the report “can come forward to us and we can interview them and we can move on from that stage.”

While police may not be able to obtain corroborating forensic evidence to support the allegations, there is still a slim window of opportunity to substantiate the claims, she said.

“If we are looking at sexual assault and sexual offences, there’s no statutory limitation per se, but the clock starts ticking for statutory limitation from the time the report reaches the police. So if someone comes forward today, the clock starts ticking from today.

“We may not be able to obtain forensic evidence from 25 years ago, unless a report was made and the victim or the survivor was medically examined back then and that evidence is stored somewhere at the Forensic Science Centre.”

But she stressed that the Special Victims Department’s starting point is: “We believe our victims.”

Police said the first step in this investigation is to verify that the report is a legitimate document. Then, they will talk to the commissioners involved with putting together the report especially after Sabga, in a media interview recently, said the report was sanitised because the other members were uncomfortable with some of its content.

The probe was initiated at the request of the Prime Minister, who called on the police to find the report, probe its contents and hold those found at fault accountable.

His calls came after public criticism for failing immediately to address allegations in the recent Judith Jones Report on abuse in children’s homes.

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar accused Rowley of purposefully turning a blind eye on the Sabga and Judith Jones report – a recent investigation into children homes which also highlighted inhumane conditions and instances of child abuse.

Rowley slammed the opposition saying the UNC should not have “the gall to seek to scold and castigate” his administration on the issue of vulnerable children.

Soon after Rowley’s call, acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob sourced a copy of the Sabga report and handed it over to the Special Victims Department on Wednesday afternoon.

If police discover the victims’ reports made 25 years ago were falsified, the investigation would move in a different direction.

Guy-Alleyne said the police were asking people not to make false allegations.

“We want you to come forward, tell the truth, and let the matter be investigated, once you are a survivor or victim.”

Special Victims Department

The Special Victims Department is an umbrella organisation that deals with abuse and victim support services.

It encompasses the Child Protection Unit, the Gender-Based Violence Unit and the Sexual Offences Unit.

In early 2021 it was decided to bring the units under one department. Months ago Jacob indirectly dismissed comments made by former commissioner of police Gary Griffith that the unit to deal with crimes against women and children had been closed.

In a press release, Jacob assured the public that the Special Victims Unit was not being closed, but was here to stay.

He said the unit “has the full support of the executive of the TTPS and its work has been having a positive impact, as victims are getting the professional assistance they need.”

Guy-Alleyne admitted that the investigation was the oldest case brought before her since she was appointed to lead the unit in 2020.

But she is determined to conduct a thorough investigation with her team, using all the resources available to them.

“Child abuse is hideous, and victims and survivors, sometimes they feel ashamed.

“But I’m asking victims and survivors: do not feel ashamed. You are not the one to feel shame. The perpetrator is the one that’s supposed to feel ashamed.

“You must be brave and come forward. We are here for you to come forward and make a report and it would be investigated fairly.”

The Sabga report

The Sabga report is the outcome of an investigation by a special task force appointed in 1997 to look into the quality of care at nine children’s homes. It unveiled shocking cases of sexual, psychological and emotional abuse of children.

Guy-Alleyne couldn’t say whether the report was submitted to the police when it was originally produced.

“But all that will be part of the investigation,” she added, “So as we get the information, we will verify the information, and wherever the information takes us, we will check.”

She preferred not to give a timeline for the investigation. She explained it must not be rushed because of the complexity and age of the document.

“The commissioner will be updated regularly with respect to the investigation. However, you treat every investigation on its own merits. Some investigations take a short time; some take a long time. That report is a couple of pages as well, so we have to really sit, read the report, know where we are, and the way forward with that report.

FILE PHOTO: A copy of the Sabga report. –

“If there was anything of evidential value, if there are persons to be interviewed, we will reach out to persons to be interviewed so that we can get evidence, or information that can be turned into evidence.”

In another interview, Sabga also linked a paedophile ring involving high-ranking officials to the Akiel Chambers murder case. Chambers, 11, was found dead in the pool of a Maraval home the day after he went missing while attending a party there in 1998. After police investigation and two court inquests into the circumstances surrounding his death, Chambers’ murder remains unsolved.

Asked to comment on Sabga’s claims with respect to Chambers, Guy-Alleyne said, if there was reason to reopen that case, police would approach the DPP for advice.

Sabga has also been reported as saying the 1997 report also linked some of those same unnamed officials to children abused in homes.

Asked if the current police investigation was going to unravel those claims, Guy-Alleyne said, “If the investigation reveals that, we will see where we go from there because the rule of law states that no one’s above the law.”