Creche owner where girls allegedly assaulted had wanted ‘male role model’ for children

Man pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of sexually assaulting four girls in 2015 and 2016

The creche owner told Orla Crowe SC, prosecuting, that the allegations about the man came to light on December 12th, 2016. File photograph:Frank Miller /The Irish Times

The creche owner told Orla Crowe SC, prosecuting, that the allegations about the man came to light on December 12th, 2016. File photograph:Frank Miller /The Irish Times

 

The owner of a creche where four girls were allegedly sexually assaulted by a childcare worker has said she was unsure if the children were being “fanciful” when the allegations first came to light.

The creche owner, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial of the 29-year-old man on Friday.

The man has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of sexually assaulting the girls between February 2015 and December 2016. They were aged between five and eight at the time.

The offences allegedly took place in various locations within the creche, including in an afterschool room and a bathroom, as well as on a bus owned by the creche, the court heard. No parties in the case can be named for legal reasons.

The creche owner told Orla Crowe SC, prosecuting, that the allegations about the man came to light on December 12th, 2016.

The court heard one girl approached a staff member and said she had heard from a friend that one of the complainants in the case said she had “kissed (the man) on the privates and then laughed”.

“We weren’t quite sure how to take it,” the creche owner said. She told the court she asked the member of staff to verify with the other child if this is what she had been told by the complainant. The child confirmed this is what she had been told.

“At that stage (the manager) and I discussed what to do,” the creche owner said. “We were unsure if it was a genuine concern or if it was the children being fanciful, talking about such matters. But we decided to notify the parents of the children involved.”

The parents were notified and the accused man was also told a complaint had been made against him, the court heard. The following day, the gardaí­ were notified by one of the child’s parents.

Suspended from work

The man was suspended from work pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, the creche owner said.

The jury has heard the man started working in the creche in 2013. The creche owner said his duties included general care and supervision of the children, providing dinner, homework support and “making sure everybody was okay”.

He also helped to deliver the children to school and collect them in the creche bus, along with one other colleague.

The man was undertaking formal childcare training but had not completed it in time and was due to be let go from the creche at the end of 2016 due to a tightening in childcare regulations, the court heard.

The court heard that in the summer of 2016, parents of one of the complainants contacted the creche manager with a query relating to the man pushing their child off his knee.

The creche owner told the court she was on holidays at the time and heard about it upon her return. She said the manager said she had a five-minute conversation with the parents and it was just a “misunderstanding”.

“It was to do with (the man) pushing (the child) off his knee because he was uncomfortable with her trying to sit on his knee,” the creche owner said.

The manager said she explained to the parents that there was a policy relating to afterschool children not sitting on workers’ knees. The creche owner confirmed this was part of the creche’s interaction policy.

The creche owner agreed with Sean Guerin SC, defending, that when she first employed the man, she felt it would be good to have a male role model in the creche.

“At the time there was a big push in the sector to recruit more men,” she said. She said she received positive feedback about the man from parents and other staff members in relation to his work.

The trial continues on Monday before Judge Elma Sheahan and a jury of seven men and five women.