4 May 2017

Accused pre-school teacher was under strain - Crown

7:31 pm on 4 May 2017

A pre-school teacher wasn't coping with the stress of her job and at times used gratuitous violence by smacking children in her care to stop them doing things that annoyed her, the Crown says.

Preschooler on bike.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Lynn Euphemia Abraham is on trial in the Auckland District Court, charged with 11 counts of assaulting nine children.

Today the Crown and defence summed up their cases.

The Crown said Ms Abraham was under strain. She was the manager of the centre but she also had a hands-on role as a teacher.

Prosecutor Brian Dickey acknowledged Ms Abraham's job was stressful, and said this case was about how she responded to that stress.

He said as well as hitting the children, she force-fed some of them, sellotaped a four-year-old's mouth shut when he was noisy and washed another child's mouth out with soap when he swore.

He said the evidence from three of Ms Abraham's colleagues was generally consistent - all saw her hit the children.

Mr Dickey took the jurors through each charge.

On one occasion, Ms Abraham was said to have smacked a child who was running around. When the child cried she was said to have told him: "You've nothing to cry about." Mr Dickey said that amounted to gratuitous violence.

Another charge relates to smacking a child with learning difficulties when he cried and refused to pack up pens. He was said to have been smacked and told: "This is what you cry for."

Mr Dickey recounted the evidence of another teacher who said Ms Abraham was hit by a two-year-old and she responded by hitting the child back. Mr Dickey said the law was plain: "You can't fight with a two-year-old."

Another charge related to a witness saying she saw Ms Abraham forcing food into a one-year-old's mouth and holding her hand over the baby's mouth.

A four-year-old was said to have been force-fed their own vomit.

But Ms Abraham's lawyer, Graeme Newell, said many of the incidents never happened.

He also addressed the vomit allegation.

Mr Newell said the witness and fellow teacher, Jennifer Wong, spoke English as a second language.

He said initially Ms Wong used the words "threw out food", that changed to "throw-up" and later in her evidence she used the word "vomit".

Mr Newell said one of the charges - that Ms Abraham sellotaped a child's mouth up - was said to have happened in 2012. It took three and a half years for Ms Abraham to be charged. He pointed out the only Crown witness to give evidence on the allegation initially said it happened in 2016, then 2015 and even 2013. He said that had to leave the jury in a state of doubt.

He also addressed a charge relating to Ms Abraham washing a child's mouth out with soap. Mr Newell said Ms Abraham washed around the boy's mouth after he swore at a teacher. He said no one else saw the incident take place.

He finished his summing up by asking the jury if they could be sure of the evidence or were they left in some doubt.

Tomorrow the jurors will hear Judge June Jelas sum up the case before they retire to consider their verdicts.