3 May 2017

Teacher denies assaulting children by smacking, force-feeding

9:11 pm on 3 May 2017

The pre-school teacher charged with assaulting nine children in her care says she only "tapped" hands and doesn't recall smacking any of them.

Signage outside the Auckland District Court

The trial in the Auckland District Court, before Judge June Jelas, is due to finish on Friday. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Lynn Euphemia Abraham is on trial in the Auckland District Court, where she has denied assaulting children by smacking, forcing three to eat food and sellotaping a four-year-old's mouth closed.

She told the court that up to four staff would be on at any one time and parents were regularly turning up.

Ms Abraham was questioned over an allegation that she washed a four-year-old's mouth out with soap after he had been swearing.

The 59-year-old said she took the boy to the bathroom and washed around his mouth, saying she was washing the bad language away - but not inside.

Ms Abraham confirmed she had relayed the incident to her boss but she was interrupted and her boss took over the conversation.

She confirmed she got a verbal warning for washing the child's mouth out with soap but said that was not what had happened.

Under cross-examination from Crown prosecutor Bryan Dickey, she denied using sellotape to quieten children making too much noise.

Her answers to the charges of smacking were slightly more complicated.

She confirmed she might have "tapped" children on their hands or moved their hands away if they were about to snatch things off others, or throwing food.

Ms Abraham said she might have smacked three of the children but she could not recall specific incidents of smacking.

Towards the end of his cross-examination, Mr Dickey asked Ms Abraham if she had smacked the children because she was too tired, stressed and was not coping. Ms Abraham denied that was the case. She also denied she had been tailoring her evidence.

Colleague who gave verbal warning gives evidence

Earlier the court heard from the senior staff member who gave Ms Abraham a verbal warning.

The woman, who has name suppression, did not spend much time at the centre itself. She said in April 2016 she got a call from Ms Abraham about the behaviour of one of the children.

She said Ms Abraham said the boy was swearing and had told one staff member that he was going to fire her.

The senior staff member said Ms Abraham had then disclosed that she had washed the boy's mouth out with soap.

The woman said she asked Ms Abraham how she could do such a thing. She said Ms Abraham responded by saying she had threatened the boy and had to follow through.

She said she expressed anger and disappointment and told Ms Abraham what she had done could be child abuse. Following a meeting, she gave Ms Abraham a verbal warning.

Under cross-examination from Ms Abraham's lawyer, Graeme Newell, she confirmed she did not get Ms Abraham's version of events in writing.

She had also chosen not to tell the parents of the boy about the allegation, despite later meeting with them to discuss the boy's behaviour.

She told the court she did not want to distress them further.

The trial before Judge June Jelas is due to finish on Friday.