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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 31 March, 2020
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RTÉ accused of criminal offences in making of Hyde & Seek exposé

Four Hyde & Seek crèches had been ordered to close by 31 December on foot of an order by Tusla.

File photo of Hyde & Seek childcare crèche on Tolka Road.
File photo of Hyde & Seek childcare crèche on Tolka Road.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

RTÉ HAS BEEN accused of forgery and carrying out criminal offences in making an undercover exposé of Hyde and Seek creches.

Four Hyde & Seek crèches had been ordered to close by 31 December on foot of an order by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to remove them from the register.

The crèches are located at Tolka Road, Shaw Street, Millbourne Avenue and Glasnevin in Dublin.

The pre-school company and the two directors also face a prosecution accused of alleged childcare failings, as a result of the RTÉ Investigates programme. They will face a non-jury trial on those charges at Dublin District Court in February.

The prosecution’s case in those proceedings will be based on inspectors’ reports and RTÉ footage.

There were 120 hours of footage filmed by undercover reporters sent into the crèches and about 20 minutes were broadcast in an RTÉ Investigates programme earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the crèche chain and two of its directors, Siobhan and Anne Davy, commenced an appeal against their deregistration today at Dublin District Court.

Aoife McNickle BL, representing Tusla, sought an adjournment because there had not been enough time to secure the presence of RTÉ reporters in court.

The challenge has been adjourned until February, resulting in a stay on the deregistration of the four creches, which can now remain open pending the outcome of the appeal.

Solicitor Michael Staines, for the company and the Davys, told Judge Anthony Halpin the crèches employed 50 people. If they closed, a large number of parents and children would be discommoded, he said as he opened the appeal.

Forged documents 

The Glasnevin crèche was built in 2014, had all mod cons, and the vast majority of the parents were happy with it, the solicitor said.

One or two parents of this or the other crèches complained to RTÉ which decided to investigate and sent two employees into some of them, Staines said.

He told the court: “They forged documents in order to convince my clients they were people other than who they were, and were capable of working in a crèche.”

The solicitor said an undercover agent committed criminal offences and certain complaints will be made soon.

“We are certain there was selective editing of film on certain occasions,” he said. He cited an example where he said the documentary showed what appeared to have happened over 40 seconds, when other film had been taken and it was “spliced together”.

The solicitor said he will be able to show that when he has an opportunity to cross-examine RTÉ witnesses.

Staines also said RTÉ’s undercover reporters were complicit in alleged breaches. He said in one case an unsupervised infant was in a cot with a bottle of milk.

“The reporter placed the child in the cot saying ‘I’m sorry’, and over the 40 seconds the child could have choked,” he said.

Staines told the court: “The undercover agent was more concerned with producing film rather than going to the aid of the child.”

The solicitor said there were similar incidents he would welcome the opportunity to deal with in cross-examination.

Siobhan Davy was present for the part-heard appeal but did not address the court.

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

The Child and Family Agency had examined and attended the premises on many occasions and focused on them as a result of the documentary, he said.

His clients were happy there was no credence in the claims.

Staines addressed the issue of staff vetting. It took time for qualifications from overseas workers to be recognised and when staff came from other childcare facilities, they had to be revetted, he said.

Vetting was not transferable.

Using a football team analogy, Staines said the crèche got over that problem by having “one or two people on the bench”. They were “subs that can be called on at short notice,” he said.

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings.

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Tom Tuite

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