A 73-year-old woman accused of assault causing harm to a 16-month old girl at a crèche in County Cork by pulling her hair, squeezing her face, shouting at her and slamming her into a chair has had her case dismissed.
Judge Colm Roberts said after a case that went on throughout today, “I can only determine the matter on the evidence. I am not satisfied that the state has reached the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. I think it would be unsafe to convict. I have to dismiss,” he said.
Judge Roberts thanked Detective Sergeant Anne Marie Guiney of the Protective Services Unit and the gardaí involved in the investigation for bringing the case before Cork District Court.
“I am glad the guards treat these cases with the seriousness they deserve.” The pensioner was working at the crèche at the time but is not working there any longer.
Another member of staff at the crèche reported to gardaí that she saw the defendant assaulting the little girl after the girl had allegedly bitten another infant on the hand.
The witness claimed the 73-year-old woman caught the child by both cheeks and squeezed her face while screaming at the child and shaking her head.
There was allegedly a second part to the incident where the defendant caught the infant by the back of the head, shaking her and screaming at her causing the child to lose balance, fall and hit her head off the floor.
It was further claimed that the defendant caught the child’s own hand and got her to slap her own face.
All of these allegations were denied by the accused.
The defendant in this case is not named as it could lead to identification of the infant who cannot be identified under provisions of The Children’s Act.
Judge Colm Roberts questioned the main witness after her direct evidence to Inspector Martin Canny and cross-examination by defence solicitor Frank Buttimer.
The judge said that if she had seen a child being assaulted by another person working in the crèche should she not have intervened or reported it immediately. The witness agreed that she should have done so.
The judge said he was concerned that another witness in the room not alone failed to corroborate the complaint but utterly refuted it. Other witnesses in the wider area also failed to corroborate the complaint, the judge said.
The 73-year-old accused was asked by her solicitor how she felt about the allegations against her. She replied, “I am appalled at some of the evidence that people think I would do something like that to a child.” She said all she did was pick up the boy bitten on the hand by the 16-month-old girl, calmed him and put Arnica on his hand.
She said that she then said to the little girl, “Don’t do that. We don’t do that in the crèche. It is not allowed.” She added, “I did not get any reaction. She was too young.”
Mr Buttimer asked, “Did you attack her?” She denied any assault and said again that she said to the 16-month-old, “We don’t bite. No biting allowed in the crèche.” The witness who described the disputed assault said the 73-year-old caught the child by the hair with one hand, caught her by the face, shook her, shouted at her slammed her down on to a chair.
“The allegations are not true. It did not happen. They are not true,” the 73-year-old testified today. Asked if she had childcare training she said, “No, I hadn’t. I did a course - first aid and handling of children. I never went to college.”
Judge Roberts told the parents of the infant that the only person on trial was the 73-year-old and that the investigation of the management of the crèche was for another day.