Creche owner fined for barring inspectors

A creche owner has been fined for refusing to allow HSE officials carry out an inspection of her premises.

Hazel O’Mahony, who runs Tiny Tots creche , Killeagh, Co Cork also had seven charges of breaching the Child Care (Pre-School) Regulations 2006 dismissed.

At Midleton District Court, Judge John O’Neill heard that HSE inspectors, Lorraine Potter and Eleanor Buckley, went to the creche on May 21 for an annual inspection. Ms O’Mahony claimed when they arrived they told her it was “a pre-court inspection” as she was due to appear three weeks later to answer eight breaches of the 2006 regulations, which the inspectors alleged they had noticed on a visit on Nov 22, 2012.

Ms O’Mahony said because she was due in court she did not know if she should engage with the inspectors. She tried to ring her solicitor Frank Buttimer but he was out of his office. She remained on the phone for nearly 30 minutes while one of his colleagues, who was unfamiliar with her case and the regulations, went to check them out. He later advised her that she should let the inspectors in, but by then they had left.

Both inspectors said they were escorted outside the premises, claiming that Ms O’Mahony’s mother, Frances, at one time held Ms Potter’s arm as she ushered her to the door. The inspectors said they went back in twice while Ms O’Mahony remained on the phone and they eventually decided to leave.

Mr Buttimer said his client had not refused them entry, but was merely seeking legal clarification on their powers.

Judge O’Neill imposed a €750 fine on Ms O’Mahony for failing to allow the inspectors enter the creche. He had earlier dismissed seven of the Child Care Act charges against her, saying convicting her of them would be like convicting a motorist for doing 51km/h in a 50km/h zone.

He gave her the benefit of the Probation Act for having insurance for a maximum of 35 children in her care, whereas the Nov 22 inspection found 37 children present and for this he told Ms O’Mahony to contribute €750 to St Vincent de Paul.


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