Sunday 8 December 2019

Charges against creche in Prime Time probe struck out

Giraffe Childcare in Stepaside which was named in the Primetime investigation
Giraffe Childcare in Stepaside which was named in the Primetime investigation
Eimear Cotter

By Eimear Cotter

A creche accused of allowing corporal punishment to take place on its premises has had all allegations struck out after a judge ruled that Tulsa, the Child and Family Agency, had no retrospective powers.

Giraffe Childcare, Belarmine in Stepaside, south Dublin, was before Dun Laoghaire District Court this morning facing three allegations relating to the care and welfare of pre-school children.

The charges had been lodged by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and followed the broadcast in May last year of the RTE Prime Time investigation 'A Breach of Trust'.

Judge Hugh O'Donnell questioned how Tulsa, which was came into being on January 1, 2014, could bring a case relating to allegations in April 2013.

Judge O'Donnell said he was unaware of any act which allowed retrospectiveness.

Solicitor Katharine Kelleher told the court that Tulsa took over from the Health Services Executive and its business and functions were transferred to the agency.

She argued that an investigation was ongoing at the time Tusla was set up, and a decision was then made to prosecute.

Judge O'Donnell said he had looked carefully at the legislation. He said there were no court proceedings against the creche in January 2014 when Tulsa was set up, and he believed the agency had no retrospective powers to bring proceedings.

Judge O'Donnell struck out the allegations, saying Tulsa had no standing to bring the charges against Giraffe childcare.

The creche was facing three matters under the Childcare (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006.

It was accused of failing to ensure no corporal punishment was inflicted on pre-school children. It was also accused of failing to ensure no acts which were disrespectful, degrading, exploitative, intimidating, emotionally or physically harmful or neglectful occurred at the creche.

A second allegation related to its failure to ensure each child's learning, development and well-being was facilitated through the provision of appropriate opportunities, activities, interaction, material and equipment.

A third charge accused the creche of failing to ensure a sufficient number of suitable and competent adults were working directly with pre-school children.

The creche had not yet entered a plea to the charges, which all relate to April 15 last year.

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