Childcare Agency, Director sued after child spends five days in police custody

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The sister of a 14-year-old girl has filed a lawsuit against the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) and its Director Ann Greene after the child was unlawfully detained for five days at the East La Penitence police station in Georgetown.

In an application to the court, filed by lawyer Eusi Anderson, it was stated that the 14-year-old was held against her will and under arrest at the police station from December 3 to 7, 2020 as part of a narcotics investigation.

The court was informed that while at the police station, the girl was kept with adult female prisoners in the prisoners’ cell at the police station. She was also reportedly forced to sleep in an upright position in a wooden chair, sleeping on a mattress, on cardboard and on cold concrete.

Other horrific ordeals at the prison were detailed in the court application. These include the sexual predatory advances the child faced by other prisoners, being cuffed to a wooden chair by her ankles for house and “infinite pain and trauma”.

And Anderson through the application emphasised that the officers of the CPA and the director herself observed these “transgressions” except the sexual advances from as early as December 3, 2020.

“They left the Claimant (the 14-year-old girl) in that state, condition and place and did not forcibly remove her,” the court was told.

The Attorney General is also listed as a respondent, as a representative of the State. And the child made several claims against the CPA and Greene.

These include that the agency and Greene breached the statutory duty of care imposed on them by the Childcare and Protection Agency Act and the Juvenile Offenders Act; a declaration that both the Agency and Greene breached the duty of care imposed on them through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which was ratified by Guyana.

Under the laws of Guyana, the girl is considered a minor.

The claimant is also asking to be paid for damages in excess of $25 million for negligence and the breach of responsibilities, in accordance with the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

It is also being argued that the childcare officials failed to take the girl to a “suitable, minor-friendly and appropriate detention” facility during the course of the police investigation instead of that police station.

The court was told that officials failed to provide counselling, guidance, support and or any kind of welfare measure to protect her rights or to implement systems to prevent and/or curtail sexual harassment by female adult prisoners, as they are mandated to.

It was also noted that in December 2020, when the girl was taken before Chief Justice Roxane George, SC to secure her release, the agency and its director indicated to the Chief Justice that they were aware of the girl’s detention and that officers visited her at the East La Penitence Police Station. Thereafter, it was noted that Greene and the CPA attempted to persuade police officials to release the girl into their custody on December 3.

Because the child still remained in custody until December 7, it is being argued that the state failed to protect the child under the aforementioned laws and conventions.

Anderson, in the application, emphasised that  in accordance with the Childcare and Protection Agency Act, the body has a duty, notwithstanding any other law, for the implementation and decisions in relation to laws governing children which include among other things, custody.

He highlighted that the Act also requires the Agency “to make timely interventions in cases where the actions or conduct of a person, where that person has authority, care or custody of a child, have resulted in or are likely to give rise to abuse of a child.”

Generally, as per Section 5(1)(o) of this Act, the Agency and its Director have a duty “to promote the rights of the child and to promote the awareness of those rights.”

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