Saturday 10 December 2016

RTÉ reporter did not have help from Áras Attracta staff, court told

Published 05/01/2016 | 02:30

Charged: Anna Ywunong Botsimbo, a staff member at Áras Attracta in Co Mayo, arriving at court. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Charged: Anna Ywunong Botsimbo, a staff member at Áras Attracta in Co Mayo, arriving at court. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Charged: Pat McLoughlin. Photo: Keith Heneghan

An undercover reporter who secretly hid cameras in a care home where a number of staff stand accused of abusing the residents has insisted no one in the facility assisted her.

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Caoimhe Delaney, a researcher with RTÉ since 2010, gave evidence of how she switched hidden cameras in the Áras Attracta care facility in Swinford, Co Mayo, between November 3 and 19, 2014.

Ms Delaney -who has a Fetac Level 5 qualification in health care - was working undercover for the RTÉ Investigations Unit at Áras Attracta after securing a work experience placement at the care facility. The decision to film there followed three whistleblowers contacting RTÉ with concerns, the court heard.

During the trial of five workers at the facility on charges of assault, Ms Delaney said she would remove and replace the hidden cameras, disguised as air freshener cans, from the common room in Bungalow Three. She would hand them to other members of the RTÉ team, Pauline Dunne and Janet Traynor, outside the bungalow each morning. Some 190 hours of footage were recorded. She said she never watched the clips, adding it was "not possible" for her to have edited them in any way.

Five members of staff at the facility are facing charges of assault at Bungalow Three, Aras Áttracta, Swinford, Co Mayo.

Pat McLoughlin (56) Lalibela, Mayfield, Claremorris, Co Mayo; Christina Delaney (35) Seefinn, Lissatava, Hollymount, Co Mayo; Anna Ywunong Botsimbo (34) Low Park Avenue, Charlestown, Co Mayo; Joan Walsh (42) Carrowilkeen, Curry, Co Sligo; and Kathleen King (56) Knockshanvally Straide, Foxford, Co Mayo, all face one charge of assault alleged to have taken place on dates between November 6 and 17, 2014.

Each denies the charge.

During the opening day of the trial at Castlebar District Court, it emerged a number of files secretly recorded by RTÉ were later deleted. The State became aware of these deleted files only at yesterday's trial.

Det Sgt James Carroll of Claremorris Garda Station, who took possession of the RTÉ recordings, also said he was unaware of the fixed camera deletions until yesterday.

Journalist Pauline Dunne gave evidence that she was the only person who deleted files and would only do so on the instruction of programme producer Janet Traynor. The files include five blank clips inadvertently recorded in a car en route to the care facility and one when the camera was voice activated but no one was in the room, the court heard. All occurred on November 12.

In initial statements to gardaí, Ms Dunne said she had not deleted any footage while Ms Traynor said she was 99pc certain no files were deleted. Yesterday, both agreed files had been deleted. When asked why she had initially said she had not deleted files, Ms Dunne said: "There was so much work to do, working long hours, it would have taken two minutes to delete those clips. It just didn't stick in my mind."

Both women, along with head of the RTÉ Investigations Unit, Paul Maguire, said these were the only files deleted and contained "absolutely nothing".

Counsels for the defendants requested the original master drive to review the tapes.

Irish Independent

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