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Crèche chain sues RTÉ for defamation over undercover TV exposé


Filming: The Hyde & Seek premises in Tolka Road. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Filming: The Hyde & Seek premises in Tolka Road. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Filming: The Hyde & Seek premises in Tolka Road. Picture: Steve Humphreys

A chain of crèches has begun defamation proceedings over a documentary that claimed to depict the mistreatment of children at its premises.

The High Court action by Hyde & Seek follows the airing of the 'Crèches - Behind Closed Doors' documentary on RTÉ in July last year.

Undercover filming was used in the programme to depict a host of alleged failings at the chain, run by husband and wife Peter and Anne Davy.

It operates facilities at Tolka Road, Pearse Street, Millbourne Avenue and Prospect Avenue in Dublin.

A lawsuit against the national broadcaster was initiated on Wednesday with a plenary summons seeking damages for defamation, aggravated and exemplary damages, a correction order and an injunction against further broadcast and publication of allegations.

The basis on which the action is being taken has yet to be revealed, as a statement of claim is still to be served.

It is understood RTÉ intends to robustly defend the defamation action.

The programme has not been removed from the RTÉ Player or website, despite the legal threats.

The action is being taken by Hyde & Seek Childcare Ltd, Hyde & Seek Glasnevin Ltd, Anne and Peter Davy and their daughter Siobhan. They are represented in the action by Meaghers Solicitors.

The business was left reeling after the programme and announced that Anne Davy, who featured in the undercover footage, was stepping back from "all front-line work" at its Tolka Road facility.

Its insurers later sought to cancel their policies, but were restrained from doing so by the High Court pending arbitration.

The High Court heard the parents of 58 children intend to sue the business over the events depicted in the programme.

Separately, the child and family agency Tusla has sought to remove the registration of the crèches. This is being appealed by Hyde & Seek. The pre-school business and its directors Anne and Peter Davy also face prosecution, accused of alleged childcare failings, as a result of the RTÉ programme.

The case is before a non-jury District Court. At a hearing last December, the solicitor representing the company in those proceedings, Michael Staines, said RTÉ undercover reporters were complicit in alleged breaches.

He alleged an undercover reporter committed criminal offences and also claimed there was "selective editing" on certain occasions.

The solicitor said Tusla had examined and attended Hyde & Seek premises on many occasions and focused on them as a result of the documentary.

He said his clients were happy they had complied with Tusla and engaged over several months since the programme to ensure all matters were in order.

A spokesperson for RTÉ said it had a policy of not commenting on legal matters.

Hyde & Seek also declined to comment.

Irish Independent