Judge reserves judgement in case of creche owner prosecuted for alleged breaches of child care regulations

HSE alleges that creche failed to meet required staffing levels during inspection visit

A judge has reserved his decision in the case of a Cork creche owner being prosecuted over eight alleged breaches of child care regulations including that the creche was insufficiently staffed to care for the number of children being cared for on the premises.

Judge John O'Neill said he wanted to carefully consider the evidence given in the case of Hazel O'Mahony of Tiny Tots Creche, Killeagh, Co Cork, who denies the eight breaches of the Child Care (Pre School Services) Regulations 2006 pursuant to the Child Care Act 1991.

Judge O’Neill said there was a clear conflict between the evidence given by HSE inspectors and Ms O’Mahony and her staff while it appeared there was also tension and possibly even resentment during the HSE inspection of the creche on November 22nd, 2012.

HSE witness Eleanor Buckley told how she found there were nine infants being cared for in the baby room and that this rose to 10 children for a period and that there were two staff caring for them but the recommended number under the guidelines was three staff.


No staff present
She also told the earlier sitting of Midleton District Court that at one point during the adult lunch period, there was no staff member present in the baby room and one infant climbed up on to a table before Ms O'Mahony came into the room and took the child down.

But at yesterday's resumed hearing, staff member Michelle Geaney denied infants were left unattended in the baby room when she went for her lunch and that a child climbed on to a table, saying it could not have happened as all tables were put away after the infants were fed.

Ms Geaney said she usually worked in the toddler room but she went to work in the baby room that morning after a colleague went home sick but she denied ever returning to the toddler room to bring up staff numbers to quota when HSE staff inspected that room.

Another staff member, Emma O’Riordan working in the baby room also denied that Ms Geaney ever returned to the toddler room via a changing area while another staff member, Frances O’Mahony, working in the toddler room also denied Ms Geaney returned there.

Defence solicitor, Frank Buttimer said that the HSE had failed to meet the standard usual in a criminal case as their witnesses had failed to produce either a contemporaneous note, photograph or any other piece of objective evidence to support their case for prosecution.

Solicitor for the HSE, Denise Kirwan said it was the HSE case that "corners had been cutting in staffing levels, for whatever reason" on the day in question and that Ms O'Mahony had failed to meet the requirements on staffing levels as set out in the guidelines.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times