A twenty-nine-year-old man who worked at a
crèche in Leinster has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of sexual assault that
happened between February 2015 and December 2016. He is accused of sexually
assaulting four young girls who were between the ages of five and eight years
old at the time of the assault. The names of the accused and creche cannot be
reported to protect the identities of the children.
The accused started his employment at the crèche in 2013, working in the kitchen and later began assisting with after-school children who attended the crèche both before and after going to one of the local schools. The man got involved in morning and afternoon collection of pupils in addition to supervising older after-school children in the afternoon. His employment was terminated in December 2016 as he had not acquired the mandatory level of childcare qualifications required by legislation as explained by Prosecuting Counsel, Orla Crowe.
Ms Crowe said an allegation of sexual misconduct against the suspect was brought to light on December 12, 2016. A staff member informed parents about the incident after one of the plaintiff’s friends told a staff member about what happened. The children’s parents went to the gardai, where specially trained forces spoke to the four girls. Interviews with the victims revealed the man in question allegedly sexually assaulted the children in various locations in the crèche and on the bus owned by the establishment.
The owner of the crèche made a statement saying the man had no childcare qualification when he started his job at the establishment, however, he had started his training. Company policy stated that employees had to either be fully qualified or in the process of qualifying to be eligible for employment, and the man had completed a one-day child safeguarding workshop making him eligible for employment at the crèche. The owner agreed with Sean Guerin, the accused’s defence counsel, that he was fit for the role and stated she felt it would be good to have a male role model in the establishment.
The accused’s studies were going at a slow pace and laws were amended resulting in anyone working at the creche after December 31, 2016, to have a FETAC level 5 qualification. The owner informed the accused that his employment would probably be terminated due to the new laws that required certain qualifications which he did not possess so the information was not new to him.
On December 12, 2016, the owner said a staff member came to her office saying she needed to speak to her and the manager. The conversation revealed an after-school pupil told one of her friends that she had kissed the man in the private area and laughed, who then informed the staff member of the incident. Parents of the children involved were then contacted and informed about the incidents that took place.
Following communication to the parents, one father called the crèche and informed the manager that he had a concern and would be contacting gardaí. The owner contacted the accused informing him there were serious allegations against him and would need to be suspended. That afternoon, gardaí came to the crèche with a warrant and retrieved CCTV footage from the system. She was made aware of this in early 2016 after the parents of one of the complainants wanted clarification on something the child said about sitting on the accused’s knee and him pushing her off, to which the manager responded saying there was a misunderstanding. She continued by explaining to parents that the crèche had a policy that after-school children had no need to sit on care-workers knees and the accused was right to push her off. She also mentioned that it was the policy at the creche that afterschool children did not need supervision while using the bathroom and that there are no sweets allowed on the premises except for special occasions. She concluded saying that all parents were notified about the allegation and suspension of the man on December 15, 2016.
The jury was informed that specially trained forces interviewed the girls, and videos of their interviews that were recorded in January 2017 will be revealed to the court during the trial. It was also mentioned that the complainants would be available to be cross-examined by the defence through video link, and the jury would get the scrutiny of the parents and specialist garda interviews.
Ms Crowe revealed the accused faces numerous charges concerning the first complainant, who said she was sexually assaulted on several instances between September 2015 and June 2016 when she was seven and eight years old. To the second complainant who was between five and six years old, the man faces eight counts of sexual assault. Lastly, it was revealed the third and fourth girl was also eight years old at the time of the alleged assaults.
The accused pleaded not guilty to twenty-three counts of sexual assault concerning the four girls between February 2015 and December 2016. The trial is assumed to last three weeks and will continue on Monday.