Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams. (FP)

There is no mistreatment or abuse of wards at the Government Industrial School (GIS), and any such suggestion is “completely baseless”.

That assertion came from Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams, as he addressed a press conference on Thursday after visiting the Barrows, St. Lucy, female unit on Wednesday.

It also comes after reports of girls attempting to escape a few weeks ago, and media reports of abuse last year.

Mr. Abrahams said that following the visit, during which he was accompanied by acting Principal, Ronald Brathwaite and members of the Board, they were satisfied that there were no cases of abuse. However, he admitted that cases of bullying among the wards were identified and measures implemented to address them.

That bullying, he said, included acts of putting paste in clothes, throwing clothing in garbage, and not the social media claims of children being abused. “It feels quite often like every single thing that happens makes it into the press and is blown out of proportion,” the Minister lamented.

Mr. Abrahams added that he ordered a full investigation into alleged abuse against one of the wards at the institution last year and gave an instruction that if there was any evidence to support such as claim, the perpetrator should be charged.

“The police did their full investigation, they talked [to] all the staff… they interviewed everybody, and found at the end of the day, that there was no abuse of the student and there was nothing to warrant criminal charges,” the Minister disclosed.

However, he said, the young lady and her family declined to comment or give evidence in the matter. “As it stands now, for all practical purposes, that investigation has reached its natural end and we are satisfied that the young lady was not abused,” he added.

Mr. Abrahams admitted that the situation led to changes at the institution as it related to dealing with persons with suicidal thoughts.

During the press conference, the Minister said he continued to hear “anecdotal evidence” of abuse from persons at the institution. But, though he has reached out to those whose names he received, none had an interest in pursuing anything.

However, he repeated his call for persons who were wards at the GIS and believed that their legal rights were infringed, or a criminal act committed, to come forward and have the matter investigated fully.

The Minister maintained that together with the board, he was comfortable that suggestions about the mistreatment of youngsters were “baseless”.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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