Crèche that featured in RTÉ investigation fined €1,000

Links Crèche in Malahide appears before Dublin District Court on welfare charges

The Links Creche, Abington, Malahide, Co. Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The Links Creche, Abington, Malahide, Co. Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

A Dublin crèche that was charged with breaking childcare laws following allegations made in an RTÉ television investigation has been fined €1,000.

The Links Crèche and Montessori Ltd, at Abington Wood, Swords Road, Malahide, Co Dublin, and its director Deirdre Kelly, from St Olaves, Kinsealy, Co Dublin had been accused of breaking the Child Care Act and pre-school services regulations.

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

RTÉ provided the CFA with 40 hours of secretly filmed footage.

Lawyers for Ms Kelly and the crèche had demanded a concession from the CFA that most of the video evidence obtained does “not show anything untoward”. Otherwise, they argued, 40 hours of footage would have to be shown in the trial.

At the outset of the hearing before the Dublin District Court on Friday, the court heard there were 24 summonses before the court, including four against Ms Kelly. These were being withdrawn, solicitor for the Child and Family Agency David McCoy said.

There were also four summonses against Links crèche in relation to vetting of staff. These were also to be withdrawn.

Mr McCoy told the court the only summonses remaining were eight charges under childcare regulation 27.

This regulation provided that a person carrying on a pre-school should take all reasonable measures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of children in their care.

Essentially, in this case, it was the welfare issue the Child and Family Agency was concerned about, Mr McCoy said.

Outlining the evidence, he told Judge John O’Neill an investigation by the HSE and the Child and Family Agency had followed an RTÉ undercover investigation.

Giving what he said was a “flavour of events” on each of eight days for which the remaining summmonses were before the court, Mr McCoy outlined instances of children being shouted at and left in wet clothes after spillages.

In one case on February 25th 2013 a child who soiled herself was shouted at by a staff member. On March 3rd, a staff member grabbed a beaker from a child and liquid spilled on the child’s clothes. In another instance, a child was seen on footage being slammed into a chair and shouted at and there was “cursing” going on around the child.

Judge John O’Neill asked if the company had any previous convictions and he was told it did not.

Justin McQuade BL for the crèche told the court Ms Kelly took the matters extremely seriously. It was not the sort of thing that ought to happen in a home and a child should not hear a voice raised.

“Nor should it happen in a crèche.”

Mr McQuade said there had been a “high level of cooperation” with the investigation carried out by the CFA.

There were no previous convictions and the company had not come to the attention of inspectors since.

The most recent inspection of the crèche in July of this year resulted in a “glowing report”, Mr McQuade said.

It was a modern, purpose-built facility in which excellent childcare was being provided. About 99 per cent of the incidents outlined to the court had involved one staff member who had worked there for a short period of time and who had been dealt with appropriately by Ms Kelly when the matters came to light, he said.

Proper and appropriate childcare was being delivered in the vast majority of the hours of video footage taken, Mr McQuade said.

Ms Kelly was a “very private lady” and had been subjected to unwanted attention.

She employed approximately 200 people in this and other crèches and it was a very large company.

Ms Kelly had agreed to make a contribution of about €1,500 towards the Child and Family Agency’s costs, he said.

Mr McCoy told the court the maximum fine for each charge was €1,269 under the Childcare Act.

There was also a provision whereby a person could be prohibited from carrying out the activities but the CFA was not seeking such a sanction in this case, the court heard.

The judge was told the crèche had been in business for 11 years. Mr McQuade said he also had letters from parents that were very complimentary of Ms Kelly and thanking her for looking after their children.

Judge O’Neill said all charges against Ms Kelly had been withdrawn and that no fault applied to her “in any shape or form”.

Judge O’Neill noted the high level of cooperation given to the investigation, the fact that there had been no previous convictions and that “99 per cent” of the incidents involved were the responsibility of one person who had left the company, the judge said

He also noted that Mr McQuade had told the court parents had been highly complimetary towards the proprietor of the crèche.

The judge convicted the crèche on one charge relating to incidents on February 25th, 2013 and he said he would mark the other seven remaining charges as taken into account.

At an earlier hearing Mr McCoy told Judge Bryan Smyth at Dublin District Court that the prosecution was able to give concessions regarding the video footage.