A Dublin creche has been fined €1,000 and allowed to stay open after a staff member was secretly filmed “rough-handling” and shouting at children.
The Links Creche and Montessori Ltd, at Abington Wood, Swords Road, Malahide, Co Dublin, and its director Deirdre Kelly, from Saint Olaves, Kinsealy, Co Dublin had been investigated for breaking the Childcare Act and pre-school services regulations.
The prosecution was brought by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency as a result of the expose Breach of Trust, by RTÉ’s investigations unit, which aired in 2013. RTÉ provided the agency with 40 hours of footage filmed by an undercover reporter. A two-day hearing was scheduled to take place later this month. However, all charges against Ms Kelly were dropped at Dublin District Court yesterday.
Pleas of guilty were then entered by her company, the Links Creche and Montessori Ltd, to eight remaining charges for failing to take all reasonable measures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of a pre-school child attending the service”.
None of the hidden camera footage was shown and the undercover reporter was not required to give evidence during the hearing yesterday.The incidents happened on eight dates from February 25 until March 21, 2013, and 99% of them involved one “rogue member of staff” who no longer works there, Judge John O’Neill was told.
Solicitor David McCoy, for the agency, gave a summary of the incidents. He said that on February 25 a toddler had soiled herself and was “shouted at by a staff member”. Two days later, a staff member would not give a child a soother and shouted at the child, pushed the child on the floor before shouting and grabbing their beaker.
On March 5, Mr McCoy said, a child was lifted from a mattress and put on the floor. On the next day a creche worker grabbed a beaker from a child who became wet; the child was “rough-handled on a chair” and was later forcibly put on a mat on the ground.
Mr McCoy said on March 14, a girl was “slammed in a chair and shouted at for trying to feed herself”, was then “cursed at” and later “rough handled on another chair”. On March 19, a crying child was left unattended and later a staff member “shouted in the child’s face”.
The agency’s solicitor said that on March 20, a creche worker was shouting at a child, grabbed their beaker and threw it and toys at the child who was rough handled by being flipped, lifted and then dropped on a sleeping mat. On the last date, one of the children who did not like their dinner was shouted at, the court heard. Mr McCoy said RTÉ handed footage to the agency who carried out an investigation.
Defence counsel Justin McQuade said Ms Kelly accepted that these matters were extremely serious.
Mr McQuade said the recent inspections of the pre-school facility had resulted in a “glowing report” and there were no further breaches of the regulations.
The creche owner, who has run the business for 11 years, was silent during the hearing. The charges that were initially brought against Ms Kelly were for failing to have staff, students and volunteers with access to children vetted by gardaí, and it was also alleged she breached record keeping regulations. However, they were all withdrawn.
Judge O’Neill said no fault applied to her “in any shape or form”. On the charges against her company, Judge O’Neill said he noted their contribution of €2,000 in costs, the guilty plea and their co-operation, and that they had no prior convictions. He fined Ms Kelly’s company €1,000 on one charge and said he was taking the remaining seven counts into consideration.
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