Baby died after being left face-down at Stockport nursery, court hears

<span>Kate Roughley is accused of the manslaughter by ill treatment of baby Genevieve at the Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle Hulme.</span><span>Photograph: Sean Hansford/Manchester Evening News/MEN Media</span>
Kate Roughley is accused of the manslaughter by ill treatment of baby Genevieve at the Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle Hulme.Photograph: Sean Hansford/Manchester Evening News/MEN Media

A nursery deputy manager caused the death of a baby she placed face-down, tightly swaddled and strapped to a bean bag for more than 90 minutes, a court has heard.

The resulting distressed cries of nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan, known to her family as Gigi, were “simply ignored”, the jury was told on Tuesday.

Kate Roughley, 37, is accused of the manslaughter by ill treatment of the baby while in her care at the Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, on 9 May 2022.

Manchester crown court heard that Roughley, a qualified nursery nurse and early years practitioner with 17 years of experience, was the duty baby room leader and in charge of sleep arrangements that day.

The baby was found unresponsive and blue at the nursery and later died in hospital.

Opening the case, Peter Wright KC, for the prosecution, said strapping a child to a bean bag on their front was “an obvious recipe for disaster”. It led, he said, to the baby’s death from a combination of asphyxia and pathophysiological stress.

He told the jury: “Genevieve had been put down to sleep in the baby room that afternoon by Kate Roughley. Doing so had involved her swaddling Genevieve so tightly that the child was effectively unable to move.

“The child had then been placed not on her back but on her front and thus in reality, and for all purposes, face-down. The risk to a baby as young as Genevieve in wrapping them tightly in this way and not putting them down on their back was, we say, obvious. All the more, we say, when you discover that she had not placed Genevieve on to a cot or a sleeping mat but on to a bean bag.

“As if that wasn’t bad enough, we say, Genevieve was also strapped front-down on to the bag by means of a harness. The obvious effect of such a method of restraint in such a position was, we say, bound to restrict even further the ability of Genevieve to move or breathe freely.

“Finally, a blanket was placed over her that covered her practically from head to foot. The inevitable consequence of this would make any observations of her even less easy to undertake and the risk to a child suffering from overheating ever more likely.

“Unsurprisingly, Genevieve was distressed by this treatment but her cries were ignored and she was left tightly swaddled, restrained and covered in this position.”

In a brief summary of the defence case, Sarah Elliott KC told jurors: “Genevieve’s death was a terrible and unavoidable accident and not caused by any acts of Kate Roughley that were unlawful.

“You will hear that she was devastated by the events of that day and left heartbroken by what happened.”

Wright, for the prosecution, said Genevieve was left virtually immobilised and face-down from 1.35pm to 3.12pm. Throughout that time, “her cries and distress – sometimes accompanied by efforts to move or reposition herself – were simply ignored”, Wright said. “Any level of interest in her wellbeing was during this period, we say, sporadic and, at best, fleeting.”

Wright said the reason for the baby’s decline was not fully realised at the time but it became “much clearer” when CCTV within the baby room was viewed.

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

The trial, estimated to last four weeks, continues on Thursday.