Baby death trial hears nursery was 'badly run'

Kate Roughley
Kate Roughley was a deputy manager at Tiny Toes nursery [BBC News]

A nursery where a baby girl was found unresponsive and later died after being strapped face down to a beanbag for 90 minutes was "badly run", a jury has heard.

Nursery nurse Kate Roughley, 37, is accused of the manslaughter by ill treatment of nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan, who she cared for at the Tiny Toes Nursery in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

Ms Roughley, who was a deputy manager at the nursery, had swaddled the child in a blanket and put her to sleep on the beanbag on 9 May 2022, her trial at Manchester Crown Court has heard.

She then fastened a strap across Genevieve’s back before later placing another cover over her.

'Too many children'

Genevieve was pronounced dead at Stepping Hill hospital later the same afternoon.

Nursery practitioner Megan Goldsby, who had worked at Tiny Toes since 2018, was called to give evidence.

Martin Reid KC, prosecuting, asked her to summarise her view on how the nursery operated.

She replied: “Not great. It was very badly ran. We had too many children."

Ms Goldsby said at first the nursery followed Ofsted guidelines of one staff member to every three children, but it then "gradually got worse".

She said policies on staffing ratios were not followed and “did not reflect reality”.

Mr Reid asked: “What was your understanding of how children should be placed asleep?”

Ms Goldsby said: “On their backs with a blanket just below their shoulders. In the toddler room they would be placed on floor mats or cots.”

Manchester Crown Court
Kate Roughley is on trial at Manchester Crown Court [PA Media]

She told the court that a week before the incident with Genevieve, she recalled a child had been placed to sleep on a strapless beanbag on their side because it was the “only option” after they had not settled in a cot or floor mat.

The witness said the beanbag in the baby room had “little straps on the front so you could secure them in”.

Mr Reid said: “How did you understand a baby would be placed in it?”

Ms Goldsby said: “Facing forward."

Nursery nurse Lydia Wakefield, who had worked at Tiny Toes for 20 years, told the jury she had never put young children or babies to sleep on a beanbag.

Jurors previously heard that 11 children were in the baby room on the day of Genevieve's death.

'Totally avoidable'

Ms Roughley and an assistant were the only members of staff visible for most of the day, while three days earlier there were 16 babies in attendance including Genevieve.

Catherine Knowles, an independent children’s social work consultant, told the court the available floor space was “not sufficient”.

She said: “The whole set-up of this baby room was not conducive to a caring, nurturing or learning environment."

She said CCTV footage within the nursery showed that falling short of the recommended number of adult carers to children “appears to be the norm”.

The expert said the safest sleeping position for a baby was on their backs and not on their front or side, and that “under no circumstances” should a baby’s head or face be covered.

She said she “firmly believed” Genevieve’s death was “totally avoidable”.

Ms Roughley, of Heaton Norris, Stockport, denies manslaughter and an alternative count of child cruelty.

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