Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Daycare assault trial: mother says teacher was 'firm but fair'

Lynn Abraham appears in the Auckland District Court on charges of abusing children in her role as a pre-school teacher. PHOTO:  Jason Oxenham.
Lynn Abraham appears in the Auckland District Court on charges of abusing children in her role as a pre-school teacher. PHOTO: Jason Oxenham.

The parents of a boy who was allegedly assaulted by daycare manager says the teacher was always "firm but fair" and never saw her hit their son.

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 at the Bright Minds Daycare Centre in St Johns from 2011 and continued through until last May.

The parents of a boy named as one of the alleged victims this morning said they considered Abraham a friend and invited her to their two children's birthday parties.

The man, who cannot be identified to protect his son, said they'd attended Bright Minds for about six years in total with both of their children.

He found Abraham "very friendly and engaging" who would occasionally raise her voice to bring the children into line.

"That usually did the trick," he told the court.

The man said he never saw Abraham lose her temper and had no concern "at all" about her care of the children.

His partner, who also gave evidence, said the centre manager was "loving towards all of the children" and was interested and invested in their learning.

Over the years her children attended the centre, she witnessed Abraham disciplining children at the centre and said it was "never physical".

"She would never raise her voice, she would always be firm but fair. She dealt with the circumstances in an apt way."

The woman said her family formed a friendship with Abraham and would give her a kiss and hug if she saw her at the shop.

Mike Gray, whose son attended Bright Minds until 2010 before the period of offending, said they grew close with Abraham as she would also baby-sit for them.

She is now a guardian of his son.

Defence lawyer Graeme Newell asked whether he saw Abraham disciplining any of the children he recalled seeing her pull the hand of a child who was grabbing a younger child.

She moved it so he didn't hurt the other children, he said.

And when asked about the accusations she used violence on the children, Gray said:

"I would say that in the entire time I've known her, I personally find that repugnant. That's not Lynn."

A former teacher, Mary Stoddard, whose police statement was read because she has since passed away, said they never force-fed the children at the centre.

Earlier, the jury heard from another teacher who said she saw Abraham force food into children's mouths and forcibly move their jaw to make them chew.

But in her statement, Stoddard said there was one older child who they had trouble getting to eat his lunch so "Lynnie" fed him with a spoon and say "eat up".

"We even have to spoon feed some of them, we don't force-feed them."

Stoddard said she had seen Abraham smack a child to "stop the behaviour" but the child didn't react or cry.

"It was more of a tap than a smack."

She also saw Abraham "tap" a child on the bottom but they were fully clothed and didn't react.

Yesterday, Newell told the court 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 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.

Both the prosecution and defence have finished calling evidence and will give closing addresses this afternoon.

- NZ Herald

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