Nursery nurse put baby girl in ‘mortal danger’, jury told

In his closing speech to the jury on Wednesday, Peter Wright KC said the defendant had “abused and exploited” the trust placed in her.

A nursery nurse put a baby girl in “mortal danger” and then deliberately did nothing about it, a jury has heard.

Kate Roughley, 37, is on trial at Manchester Crown Court accused of the manslaughter by ill-treatment of nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan, who was in her care at Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

The Crown say the youngster died from asphyxiation brought about by a combination of “pathophysiological stresses” after the defendant placed her face down, tightly swaddled and strapped to a bean bag, and then covered her with a blanket.

It is alleged she then ignored the cries and distress of Genevieve, and showed “sporadic” and “fleeting” interest in her wellbeing, for one hour and 37 minutes until she made the grim discovery.

Roughley denied she ignored Genevieve and told the court she placed her on her side, that her face was visible at all times and she had no concerns that she was in any distress.

During the course of the trial the jurors have been shown nursery CCTV footage of the baby room which captured the tragedy on the afternoon of May 9 2022.

In his closing speech to the jury on Wednesday, Peter Wright KC said the defendant had “abused and exploited” the trust placed in her to “her own benefit and at the cost of that child”.

Kate Roughley denies manslaughter and an alternative count of child cruelty Credit: ITV News

He said: “Genevieve’s death was not the result of some unforeseen, unexpected, unexplained phenomenon as suggested by Kate Roughley but the result of asphyxiation brought about by a combination of pathophysiological stresses – each of them caused or brought about by her deliberate conduct.

"Genevieve’s death was not a terrible and unavoidable accident. We say it was unquestionably terrible but it was wholly avoidable.

"As the evidence demonstrates in this case it was the treatment meted out to Genevieve by Kate Roughley which was the direct cause of her death.

"Her death arose as a direct consequence of the unsafe sleeping environment, the unsafe sleeping arrangement to which she had been deliberately placed.”

A former worker told the court there had been "too many children" attending Tiny Toes Nursery. Credit: ITV News

He said Genevieve was put on the bean bag because the defendant was “dissatisfied” with Genevieve and the “imposition” that she considered had been placed on her time and attention.

Mr Wright said: “She considered Genevieve was occupying too much of her time and was too vocal, too demanding, so she was going to do something about it.

“Genevieve was being punished for her earlier perceived misdemeanours, for not sleeping long enough for her liking. She was being banished to the bean bag and restrained.

“It was a recipe for disaster, and disaster there followed.

“Genevieve’s obvious distress, both capable of being so clearly seen and heard, on that afternoon was just ignored.

"Not just for a minute or two but minute after minute after minute. After writhing and thrashing and crying, audibly and visibly, ignored routinely and repeatedly, as Genevieve fought for survival before her very eyes and before everyone’s eyes when viewing that CCTV.

“Kate Roughley had based herself in and around the kitchen area or in duties in which she effectively left Genevieve to her fate and paying lip service to any meaningful checks on that child. Lip service to her wellbeing, until it was too late.

“She put that child in mortal danger and then deliberately did nothing about it.”

He said that by 9 May Genevieve had become the “unfortunate target” of “wrath and frustration” from the defendant who had taken a dislike to the child.

In her closing speech, Sarah Elliott KC, defending, told the jury: “You know she feels responsibility for Genevieve’s death because Genevieve was in her care and she is going to bear that for the rest of her life but you have to decide whether she is criminally responsible.

“Katre Roughley is a very ordinary woman. She wanted to work with children since she was a schoolgirl, that’s all she has ever done.

“Everything she knew, all that experience came from Tiny Toes. She went there almost straight from school.”

Senior colleagues at Tiny Toes, including owners Frank and Karen Pell and their daughter Grace, became “like a family to her” but Miss Elliott added: “There is no sign of them now.”

She suggested that the owners were making an “awful lot of money” and were paying their staff £11 and £11.50 per hour but “worse than that” the nursery had too many children and not enough staff.

Miss Elliott went on: “The Crown’s assertion is that Kate Roughley deliberately treated Genevieve badly because she didn’t like her. If you are not sure that’s right then the Crown’s motive for this falls away.

“We do see things on the CCTV footage that are not textbook perfect and as Kate Roughley said she should have acted with more patience, less rushing. Don’t hold against her minor losses of patience or rushing when the numbers (of children) were overwhelming. The footage you have seen is a snapshot.

“Over 17 years of nursery work without a complaint about her, we say that Genevieve is treated in the same way as others.

“We say that everything that Kate Roughley does on May 9 is done with the aim of getting Genevieve to settle.

“Swaddling her for comfort, the blanket for extra warmth, putting her on her side because she has a cough and putting her on a bean bag because she was told she had slept better on it.”

Miss Elliott told the jury they must consider the behaviour of the nursery management because it would help put into context some of the accusations levelled at Roughley.

She said the baby room could seen by bosses from the live CCTV feed at reception, as well as from an upstairs office and also when they popped into the room during the course of the day.

As Miss Elliott urged the jury to return “proper and true” verdicts of not guilty against the charge of manslaughter and an alternative charge of child cruelty, she said: “You may think that there are a number of people the Crown could have put in the dock but they have chosen to blame Kate Roughley.”

The trial continues.