Dublin crèche in RTÉ probe gets three weeks to decide plea

Defence has demanded to see ‘vital evidence’ allegedly held by ‘star witness’

The Links Créche 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. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Links Créche 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. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A Dublin crèche facing trial for breaking child protection laws following a RTÉ investigation has demanded 160 hours of video footage allegedly held by a prosecution “star witness”.

The Links Créche 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 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.

On Tuesday at Dublin District Court, defence lawyers said they still needed to be furnished with “vital evidence” which the prosecution said they do not intend to rely on.

Judge John O’Neil adjourned the case for three weeks when, he said, the defendants will have to enter pleas and he added that lawyers for both sides could resolve outstanding issues.

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.

Yesterday defence counsel Cara Jane Walsh told Judge O’Neill that the 40 hours of video evidence had been received however vital pieces of evidence remained absent.

She said 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.

Ms Walsh BL also said the key witness mentioned in her statement that she had collected 200 hours of footage. The barrister asked for an order for the remaining 160 hours to be furnished adding that without this the defendant would be prejudiced.

She also said the defence wanted statements from five prosecution witnesses.

In reply, prosecution solicitor David McCoy told Judge O’Neill that disclosure has been complied with and “anything we have received has been given over to them”. He also said the prosecution was not relying on the video footage sought by the defence.

He told the judge that the Child and Family Agency conducted its own investigation. They had not sought documentation given to Paul Maguire and did not have control over that.

Judge O’Neill said he would not make an order in relation to the 160 hours of video evidence.

Ms Kelly was present for the proceedings but did not address the court.

The Child and Family Agency alleges that the crèche breached regulations by not preventing practices that were “disrespectful, degrading or exploitative”, Judge O’Neill has already heard.

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.

Ms Kelly and the company face four charges for not having staff, students and volunteers with access to children vetted by gardaí, and it is also alleged she and the crèche 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.