Nursery nurse guilty of manslaughter of nine-month-old girl in her care

A nursery nurse who strapped a baby girl face down on to a bean bag for more than a hour and a half has been convicted of her manslaughter.

Nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan was also tightly swaddled and covered with a blanket by Kate Roughley, 37, who put her to sleep when she was in her care at Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

Roughley (pictured) discovered Genevieve’s lifeless body on the afternoon of May 9 2022 before colleagues and then paramedics attempted to revive the baby but her condition was irreversible and she was pronounced dead later that day in hospital.

On Monday, a jury of six men and six women at Manchester Crown Court unanimously found Roughley, of Heaton Norris, Stockport, guilty of manslaughter.

Roughley was remanded in custody ahead of her sentencing on Wednesday afternoon.

The prosecution said the youngster’s death from asphyxiation brought on by a combination of pathophysiological stresses was a direct result of Roughley’s actions in creating a “very unsafe sleeping environment”.

Peter Wright KC said the defendant had placed Genevieve, known to her family as Gigi, in “mortal danger” with the sleeping arrangements, also inappropriately covering her with a blanket, and then deliberately did nothing about it.

In his closing speech to the jurors, 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.”

Some jurors were in tears at the start of the trial as they first watched nursery CCTV footage of the baby room which captured the tragedy unfolding as Genevieve was left “virtually immobilised” from 1.35pm to 3.12pm.

Mr Wright said the youngster’s desperate fight for survival was clear but her crying and the thrashing and writhing of her body were routinely and repeatedly ignored.

Roughley paid “lip service” to any meaningful checks and Genevieve’s wellbeing until it was too late, he said.

Her actions were said to be fuelled by an “illogical and disturbing hostility” towards the youngster which was revealed on further CCTV footage from May 5 and 6.

She was subjected to “rough handling”, said the prosecution, by Roughley, who called her “stress head” and on one occasion told her: “Genevieve go home. Do you have to be so loud and constant? Change the record.”

Roughley sang to her “stop whingeing” and “Genevieve go home. Please, I’m even asking nicely. You are driving me bananas and I’m not wearing pyjamas”.

The defendant’s case was that Genevieve’s death was a “terrible and unavoidable accident” and not the result of any unlawful acts.

Roughley joined Tiny Toes straight from college at the age of 18 and said she gained most of her knowledge of working with babies and young children from her colleagues.

Giving evidence as Genevieve’s parents, John Meehan and Katie Wheeler, watched on from the public gallery, she said she was “devastated” by the tragedy and felt responsible as the child was in her care but did not feel her actions were the cause of her death.

Roughley said she treated Genevieve no differently from any other child as she told the jury she placed the youngster on her side and that she remained in that position, with her face visible throughout, until she made the grim discovery.

The swaddling and the harness restraint were not so tight that it unduly restricted her movements, she said, and that “kicking her legs” and “tossing and turning” were not out of character for Genevieve.

She was told that Genevieve had previously slept better on a bean bag rather than in a cot, she said, and placed her on her side because she had a cough and she wanted her to settle.

Roughley said she made suitable and appropriate checks on Genevieve and denied the prosecution’s claim that she “persecuted” the youngster.

She told the court: “I would never not like a nine-month-old baby. So to say I disliked her is far from the truth.”

The defendant told the court that the ratio of the numbers 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”.

The court 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.

Defence barrister Sarah Elliott KC told jurors that Roughley was paid “£11 to £11.50 per hour” in May 2022 and suggested the nursery owners, Frank and Karen Pell, were making an “awful lot of money” from the business.

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

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