herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Creche to show court 39 hours of undercover video

Deirdre Kelly
Deirdre Kelly

A DUBLIN creche facing trial under child protection laws following an RTE expose will show almost 40 hours of secretly filmed video evidence in its defence.

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 are accused of breaking the Childcare Act and pre-school services regulations.

The prosecution has been brought by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA), as a result of the TV documentary Breach of Trust, by RTE's investigations unit, which aired in 2013.

The producers of the programme provided the CFA with 40 hours of secretly-filmed footage.

Dublin District Court was told the prosecution will be depending on two hours of "condensed" footage. However, the defence wants the court to see the remaining 38 hours "that does not show untoward activity".

Justin McQuade BL, defending, told Judge John O'Neill he was asking for "a hearing date", an indication the case may be contested. He said four or five days would be needed for the trial.

Joe Coonan, solicitor for the CFA, told Judge O'Neill it was a matter for the defence how much footage they wanted to rely on. The CFA has "condensed the footage" and isolated the parts related to each summons before the court, said Mr Coonan.

Mr McQuade said the defence has asked the prosecution if there was anything untoward in the rest of the footage. He said there are charges against the creche and "if there are 39 hours of footage that does not show any untoward activity, it is a defence". The creche owner's barrister also said that in the absence of any concession from the CFA, the defence will show about 38 hours of video evidence.

Ms Kelly's lawyer also complained that the defence had received no co-operation in relation to disclosure of documents between RTE's undercover reporter and the programme's producer.

Addressing that issue, Mr Coonan said the reporter and producer will be called as witnesses and available for cross-examination.

Ms Kelly had been excused from attending the proceedings. Judge O'Neill adjourned the case until next week when the trial date will be set.

The CFA alleges the creche breached regulations by not preventing practices that were "disrespectful, degrading or exploitative". On conviction, the court can impose fines of up to €1,300 as well as an order suspending a person from running a childcare facility.

Vetted

Ms Kelly and the company face four charges for not having staff, students and volunteers with access to children vetted by gardai. It is also alleged she and the creche breached record keeping regulations from October 7 until October 14, 2013.

The company faces another 20 charges including claims that on March 5, March 6, March 13, March 19, March 20, March 21, May 30 and February 27, 2013 it failed to: "ensure that no practices that are disrespectful, degrading, exploitative, intimidating, emotionally or physically harmful or neglectful were carried out in respect of any child".

It is claimed the company did not "take all reasonable measures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of a pre-school child attending the service" on the same dates.

hnews@herald.ie

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