Lawyers seek evidence from RTÉ over creche facing ‘neglect’ charges

Links Creche and Montessori of Malahide, Co Dublin was subject of undercover documentary in 2013

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

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

 

RTÉ has been asked to explain what additional evidence it has on a creche owner facing trial for breaking child for breaking child protection laws following an undercover expose.

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.

However, they have not yet entered a plea.

The prosecution brought by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is as a result of the TV documentary Breach of Trust, by RTÉ’s investigations unit, which aired last year.

The producers of the programme provided the Child and Family Agency with 40 hours of secretly filmed footage which is to form a major part of the prosecution’s case.

That has been handed over to the defence who have also demanded another 160 hours of video footage allegedly held by a prosecution “star witness”.

During a pre-trial hearing prosecution solicitor David McCoy told Judge John O’Neill at Dublin District Court that he has been in correspondence with RTÉ to clarify issues.

Defence counsel Cara Jane Walsh said she needed to know the prosecution’s position in relation to disclosure of the other evidence. She has already told the court the defence also wanted “vital evidence” including statements from five prosecution witnesses.

She had also said earlier that a “star witness” had reported to Paul Maguire, the head of RTÉ’s investigations unit, and the defence wanted that documentation as well as garda statements to be made available.

Mr McCoy said RTÉ had to give its “definitive position” and needed to respond to his correspondence.

He also said that out the 40 hours of video footage already handed over there were “really only 15-20 minutes that are relevant to the prosecution”. Ms Kelly was present for the proceedings but did not address the court.

Judge O’Neill adjourned the case for six weeks and agreed that she would not have to attend the next hearing.

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

Ms Kelly and the company face four charges in relation to not having staff, students and volunteers with access to children vetted by gardaí, and it is also alleged she and the creche breached record keeping regulations from October 7th until October 14th last year.

Furthermore the company itself faces another 20 charges including claims that on March 5th, March 6th, March 13th, March 19th, March 20th, March 21st, May 30th and February 27th, 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 that 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.