Hard on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling that found that neither the police, Family Court of the Department of Child and Family Services had the right to remove a young child from his parents.
In a statement issued today, Acting Commissioner of Police Paul Wright said the ruling “provides important opportunities for learning to be taken up by the police and the other agencies cited in the decision”.
“The Bermuda Police Service (BPS) takes very seriously the important role that it plays in the safeguarding of children,” said Mr Wright.
“The ruling handed down by the learned Judge found that the Department of Child and Family Services made the decision that a young child be removed from the care of his parents for his safety on May 3rd, 2017 and relied on the BPS to effect removal.
“However, the ruling also found that the removal of the young child by the BPS was an unreasonable exercise of its discretion under Section 41 of the Children’s Act 1998.
“The ruling is comprehensive and provides important opportunities for learning to be taken up by the police and the other agencies and entities cited in the decision. The BPS is committed to doing so,” he added.
“This will include making an assessment of conduct under the provisions of the Police (Conduct) and (Performance) Orders 2016 as well as providing appropriate training and guidance to ensure that public officers fully understand their powers and obligations under the Act.”
In his ruling, Assistant Justice David Kessaram said both the Department of Child and Family Services and Family Court were wrong to back the child’s removal under an emergency protection order.
This after the child suffered an arm injury. The boy’s mother told the court that she “thought it might be easier” if she wasn’t there when they took her son, so she stayed inside.
“I could not watch from the window as I heard him screaming and his begging his father to go with him. He kept screaming and asking for me and I was incapable of helping my son,” she said.
“Nothing can describe the pain of my child being ripped away and being incapable of helping him. I cannot imagine what my son must have gone through and the effect it will have on his development. I fear he has been irreparably harmed.”
In his written judgement, Justice Kessaram said: “The removal of a child from the care of his parents is a serious matter, whether it is effected by police or by the Director of the DCFS.”
He also noted police were only allowed to use their power to remove children from their homes only “in emergency circumstances”.
But he said nothing was put before him to indicate why DCFS did not consider other options.
“Accordingly, it was wrong, in my view, for the Family Court to have accepted the DCFS’s case as having been made out.
“There was simply no basis for the court to find that there was reasonable cause to believe that significant harm would likely be suffered by the child if left in the care of his parents.”
The case stems from a call from the child’s school to his parents, after he complained about pain in his wrist, the day before he was removed.
The court heard that the child was seen by Dr Peter Perinchief, who referred him to the hospital for an X-ray on a fractured wrist.
The attending physician in the Emergency Department said the child was suffering from “nursemaid’s elbow”. She also told the court that the parents seemed “concerned” and “loving”, and that she had no concerns regarding child abus.
But the court also heard that a report was made to the DCFS Kidsline about the child’s safety, and that there were another two previous allegations of abuse that were found to be unsubstantiated.
On hearing the child had yet to have an X-ray, the department contacted the police and told them the child’s arm was fractured., and that the child needed to be taken into protective custody.
It was also noted that the officers assumed the courts had already issued the order.