File photo: Anand Ramlogan
FORMER attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, says Monday’s ruling by the Privy Council on the lawfulness of the detention of a teenager at two institutions was a “wake-up call for us as a society.
On Monday, the Privy Council overturned a ruling of the Court of Appeal, restoring an award of $1 million in vindicatory damages to the teen who had been abused at the St Michael’s Home for Boys and the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.
The award of vindicatory damages had been wiped out by the Court of Appeal on an appeal by the State which said it was excessive and the quantum of compensatory damages was also reduced.
In their decision, Privy Council judges, Lords Hodge, Leggatt, Burrows, Richards and Lady Rose restored Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams award of $921,200 in compensatory damages and $1 million in vindicatory damages.
Speaking on the decision, Ramlogan, who led a team of attorneys for the teenager and his mother, said, “The torture and sexual abuse is a horror story that no child should ever have to undergo at such a tender age.
“Stories of sexual abuse at children’s homes are not new but the extent of the bullying and frightening torture of this child by both residents and staff alike must shock the nation’s conscience and prompt urgent reform.
In their ruling, the Privy Council held the boy’s rights to cruel and unusual punishment had been infringed by the State as he was first wrongly sent to an institution for young offenders (St Michael’s) and to the psychiatric hospital for “safekeeping” when, at the time he was sent there, he did not have a mental illness.
Ramlogan said the system was guilty of “turning a blind eye to the plight of this child and, to date, no one has been arrested and charged.
“Instead of dealing with the perpetrators, the child was sent to St Ann’s where the torture and sexual abuse became even worse as adult patients at St Ann’s took advantage of him and continued to sexually abuse him.”
He continued, “Imagine the victim was treated as if he was insane and medicated on that basis! It’s outrageous and incredible.”
He said it was the worst case he has ever done in 25 years.
Ramlogan said while no amount of money could compensate the boy for the pain and suffering he endured, the court’s award – the highest ever in legal history locally – will go towards getting him the help he needs.
The teen is now 19 and has Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, which inhibits physical and cognitive development, produces feelings of insatiable hunger leading to obesity and is associated with behavioural problems. It is not considered a mental illness.