herald

Sunday 25 August 2019

Over 30 families planning legal action against Hyde and Seek over kids' ordeal

Footage from RTE expose
Footage from RTE expose

More than 30 families have indicated they intend starting legal proceedings against a creche chain where children were mistreated.

That figure is expected to rise further in the coming weeks after a large group of concerned parents met lawyers and counsellors on Thursday night to discuss their options.

All the parents had children at the Hyde and Seek chain in Dublin, which was at the centre of a damning undercover expose broadcast by RTE last week.

Solicitor Kathrin Coleman, of Coleman Legal Partners - whose representatives were at the meeting - said she had received instructions from upwards of 30 families to issue proceedings against the creche and named individuals.

"That figure is expected to grow in the near future," she said.

Ms Coleman's firm also acted for families who were affected by a previous RTE documentary, A Breach Of Trust, which exposed mistreatment in creches in 2013.

In 2016, settlements totalling more than €1m were approved by the High Court arising from that documentary.

Payouts

Payouts of between €40,000 and €75,000 each were approved by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

A source at the meeting described the atmosphere as "emotional", with parents expressing anger and sorrow over what had happened.

The programme showed how milk for children was diluted with water, while cheap noodles were served instead of a vegetable dish advertised on a menu given to parents.

It revealed children were held down to make them go to sleep, shouted at and left to cry. Cramped sleeping conditions were also exposed.

Footage showed one child was left in his high chair for up to 40 minutes after feeding time. There were also breaches of safety, including blocked fire exits and a lack of garda vetting of staff.

Due to the numbers involved, the lawsuits are likely to be taken as a multi-party action and will require case management by the courts.

The matter is also being examined by gardai, who have taken possession of footage and have appealed for parents or guardians who have complaints to contact them.

The Hyde and Seek chain is run by husband and wife Peter and Anne Davy and has facilities in Glasnevin, Tolka Road and Shaw Street.

Ahead of the broadcast, Hyde and Seek announced that Anne Davy would be stepping back from "all front-line work" at the company's creche in Tolka Road.

It also said external consultants would be called in to look at the service. The nursery chain insisted the overall picture painted by the programme did not reflect "who we are" but accepted there were specific issues it needed to address.

Ms Davy was previously fined €1,200 in March 2005 for failing to provide adequate safeguards and supervision for a three-year-old boy during an outing in Fairview Park.

At the time, she operated the Giggles Creche and Montessori based in Tolka Road.

Earlier this week, Tusla officials told the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs there were 37 services around the country that were the subject of serious concerns.

It emerged at the hearing that Tusla did not have the power to close down a creche, an issue now being examined by the Department of Children.

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