Crèche worker cleared of neglect after toddlers’ escape

A deputy crèche manager has been cleared of wilfully neglecting two toddlers who escaped and were found wandering by a stream.

Judge Hugh O’Donnell told Dún Laoghaire District Court the case against Joanne Witkowska, aged 34, of Wingfield Apartments, Stepaside, Co Dublin, was dismissed because of insufficient evidence.

Ms Witkowska was charged after an incident at the Giraffe Crèche at Belarmine, Stepaside, on July 23 last year when the children, a boy and a girl aged 18 months and 19 months, left a playground through a gate she had left open. They were found beside a stream running in a green area 170m from the creche by a local resident.

The court heard earlier their disappearance was not noticed for 15 minutes and even then only the boy was thought to be missing.

Staff only realised the two children had gone when they were returned by the resident almost 25 minutes after they escaped. CCTV footage played in court showed the children wandering off and the panic that ensued when their absence was noted.

Ms Witkowska was charged on evidence that she was asked by an animal handler visiting the creche for the code to the security gate but declined and told the visitor to prop the gate open instead. Her defence argued while her actions were an oversight and carelessness, they did not amount to wilful neglect.

The creche is separately facing prosecution by the Child and Family Agency arising out of the same incident.


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