Tuesday 17 September 2019

'I simply wanted to frighten her' - childminder who broke baby's arm when trying to 'distract her' walks free

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Gordon Deegan

An 18-year childminder told Gardai that she unintentionally broke the arm of her one-year-old niece when trying to frighten the baby in order to distract her from crying.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Det Sgt Claire O’Shaughnessy said that the Latvian childminder and baby girl's aunt - now aged 20 - told Gardai in an interview that she “twisted the baby’s arm a little bit in the elbow area” to try to make her calm down.

In the case, the woman has pleaded guilty to willfully assaulting, ill-treating and neglecting her one year old baby niece in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child’s health at an address in Ennis on May 21 last year.

The childminder walked free from court today after Judge Gerald Keys didn’t impose any sentence on the childminder and instead imposed a conditional discharge because of the many mitigating factors in the case.

He has ordered that the accused return to her native Latvia by November 30 and be of good behaviour and attend a course of anger management.

The DPP had recommended that the case be heard in the district court but the district court judge transferred the case to the circuit court  where more serious penalties apply after hearing an outline of the prosecution case against the accused.

In court today, Judge Keys said: “This case shouldn’t be in this court full stop.”

The accused was today accompanied to court by her sister, the child's mother.

In court, Det Sgt O’Shaughnessy said that the childminder’s explanation for the arm break was “I simply wanted to frighten her - just to distract her from crying.”

In the minutes before the arm-break on May 21 last year, which was three days short of the baby girl’s first birthday, the childminder said that she had got frustrated with the child as the infant was crying a lot.

She told Gardai that she had endeavoured to stop the child crying.

The childminder didn’t realise that she had broken the child’s arm and she said that the baby cried more when this occurred and she couldn’t calm her down after that.

Det Sgt O’Shaughnessy said that the childminder stated that she didn’t apply much force and she didn’t expect the arm to break.

The childminder had come to Ireland the previous October to look after her sister’s three children aged seven, two and-a-half and 12 months.

The seven-year-old has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Det Sgt O’Shaughnessy agreed that the childminder was in a stressful situation and was unable to cope with looking after the children when she broke the arm of the baby.

There was an older woman in the house at the time and she alerted the parents over the child’s upset.

On arriving home, the girl’s father noticed that the baby girl’s arm was sore to touch and they brought the baby to Shannondoc.

Shannondoc didn’t diagnose the arm break at that time and they advised the parents to bring the baby to hospital if the pain didn’t subside.

The baby was brought to University Hospital Limerick (UHL) the following day and medics there notified Garda as they believed that the arm break was unusual as the child was not yet walking.

Det Sgt O’Shaughnessy agreed with counsel for the child-minder, Rebecca Treacy BL that the child minder is quite immature for her age and acted out of frustration and what occurred was not intentional.

Ms Treacy said that the childminder had been looking after the three children since October 2017 and it had passed off without incident before May 21 last.

Ms Treacy said that her client has expressed her remorse and embarrassment and has conveyed her apologies to her family.

The medical report states that after the initial spiral arm break, the child has made a full recovery from her injury.

Ms Treacy said that the childminder has no previous convictions and that the risk of re-offending is low.

The childminder has continued to live with her sister and her family since the incident as she is unable to return home after surrendering her passport as part of her bail conditions.

The 20-year-old no longer cares for the three children.

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