A daycare teacher says she never taped a girl's mouth shut or force-fed children and only tapped them on the hands when they misbehaved.
Lynn Euphemia Abraham, 59, is defending 11 charges against nine children, all under 5, in a jury trial at the Auckland District Court this week.
The alleged offending occurred in 2011 and continued through until last May.
The East Auckland childcare centre she worked at during the time of the alleged offending has interim name suppression.
The Crown alleges Abraham, who was the centre manager, washed a 4-year-old child's mouth out with soap and put tape across the mouth of another.
She's also accused of forcing food into children's mouths, including a 1-year-old, while six charges allege she smacked them.
This afternoon she took the stand and told the jury she washed around the boy's mouth not inside it, never taped a girl's mouth shut and only tapped children's hands.
Abraham said one of the boys at the centre was particularly difficult to manage and after an incident where he swore at a staff member, she took him to the bathroom.
"I washed his mouth and I'm indicating on the outside of his mouth, I did not wash inside his mouth."
She told him they were doing that to wash "away the bad words".
Earlier, the court heard from a staff member who said Abraham told her she'd washed the boy's mouth "out" with soap.
Abraham today denied she said that and instead said: "I washed his mouth with soap".
The manager also denied force-feeding children and said children who had eating issues she fed with a spoon
She told the court she would put the spoon up to a boy's mouth, wait for it to open then put it in his mouth.
And Abraham said she never taped a girl's mouth shut nor threatened to do so.
"I can't recall exactly what I would have said - I imagine I would have told her to stop being so noisy."
The children had access to tape in the arts room, she said.
Abraham also denied smacking children.
"I would tap hands, move hands away, flick them away."
Under cross examination by Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey, Abraham admitted she "possibly" smacked two children's hands to get them to stop touching others' food.
"It's possible it could have been seen as a smack," she said while she demonstrated slapping the back of her hand.
In his opening to the jury, defence lawyer Graeme Newell said they would need to consider:
- What was the degree of forced used?
- In what context was the force used?
- What the purpose of the use of force?
Under the Crimes Act 2007, a parent or a person in the place of a parent is "justified in using force" if it was reasonable in the circumstances, Newell said.
The act offered a positive defence to the charges Abraham faces and the jurors would have to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that the prosecution had proved the force wasn't justified, he said.
Newell directed the jury to three subsections of the law which states force was permitted if it was for the purpose of:
- Preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person.
- Preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour.
- Performing the normal daily tasks which are incidental to good care and parenting.
Newell said the allegations were "by and large" related to a "smack on the hand".
The trial continues and is set to finish by the end of the week.