Nursery worker 'thought baby could sleep on front' - court

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

A nursery worker accused of causing the death of a baby girl told a jury she believed infants over six months did not need to be placed on their backs to sleep.

Kate Roughley, 37, said it was a “general understanding” at Tiny Toes Nursery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, that children could be positioned on their front or side from that age onwards.

Prosecutors say she placed nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan face down, tightly swaddled and strapped to a bean bag for more than an hour and a half.

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

Jurors at Manchester Crown Court, where Ms Roughley is standing trial for manslaughter, heard that the youngster was left “virtually immobilised”, and that her cries and distress were “simply ignored”.

'Gradually worsened'

Ms Roughley later found Genevieve “unresponsive and blue” on the afternoon of 9 May 2022, but staff and paramedics were unable to revive her.

Giving evidence in her defence, Ms Roughley said she had wanted to work with children since she was at school, and started at Tiny Toes when she was 18.

She said “the bulk of her knowledge” mainly came from nursery colleagues.

She confirmed she had read NHS safe sleeping guidance, stating that to the reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) “place your baby on their back to sleep, in the same room as you for the first six months” and “keep your baby’s head uncovered, their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders”.

She told the court swaddling babies was procedure at Tiny Toes when she started, and was also done to older children.

She said someone “must have” shown her how to do it.

She said the ratio of staff to children at the nursery “gradually worsened” during her time at Tiny Toes as the “number of children went up and the number of staff went down”.

Ms Roughley said she understood the guidance for staffing ratios was one to three babies.

The court has heard in April and May 2022 the staff to children ratios were at various times one to nine, two to 11, two to 13 and one to 16.

Ms Roughley said: “Due to the sheer volume of children we couldn’t cuddle them to sleep as we would have liked to.”

She said she mentioned the ratio issue to management but said the problem was merely moved elsewhere as babies would be transferred to older age groups.

The only on-site training at the nursery was restricted to first aid sessions at weekends and that staff had to pay for their online training, the jury heard.

She added that as time went on she was unable to take any work breaks in the morning and afternoon “unless you could juggle it between you” and she would not have a lunch break.

Ms Roughley denies manslaughter and an alternative count of child cruelty.

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