Fife nursery worker jailed for assaults on children

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A nursery worker who dangled a child upside down until blood vessels around his eyes burst was today (Tuesday) jailed.

In another horror incident Caroline Bell lifted up a child by his ankles, carried him across the room then “dumped” him on his head.

Bell (44), of Lorraine Drive, Cupar, had denied two charges of assault and one of ill-treating children at the Busy Bee nursery in Cupar – now known as Little Beehive.

After a summary trial at Dundee Sheriff Court she was found guilty of the two assault charges, committed between November 1 2013 and February 26 2014.

The Crown said they were no longer seeking a conviction on the ill-treatment charge at the beginning of the trial.

Bell wept in the dock as a sheriff told her: “These are dreadful crimes - there is no alternative to custody.”

Defence solicitor Kevin Hampton said: “She is in employment and will lose her job if she goes to custody.

“There is no real risk of her re-offending.

“She has been through a Scottish Social Services Council tribunal and knows she will never work in this field again.”

Sheriff Simon Collins QC jailed Bell for eight months, and made an order barring her from engaging in work with children in the future.

He said: “These are dreadful offences, not just because of the harm but because of the abuse of your position of trust.

“You continue to deny one of the charges and minimise the other.

“There was a compelling case against you involving multiple witnesses.

“The nature of the circumstances are so serious that there is no alternative to a custodial sentence.”

During the trial, Dundee Sheriff Court heard from Sian Conway (22), a former worker at the nursery, that she was the whistleblower who flagged up two specific incidents to bosses – leading the cases to be reported to the police.

Miss Conway said: “I was working with Caroline - she was my senior.

“There was an incident involving one of the children on the climbing frame.

“The child had bitten another child and Caroline went over to deal with the situation.

“She picked him up off the climbing frame and had him upside down by the ankles.”

Miss Conway wept as she told the court: “She walked him across the room, dangling him by the ankles all the way.

“Then she dumped him on the floor - she dropped him from stomach level, she just let him go.

“Then she came over to me and had a laugh about it - she made a joke of it.”

Describing another incident, Miss Conway added: “I was on holiday - I only know about it because Caroline told me about it when I came back.

“Before I’d gone away we had been playing with the kids - holding their hands and letting them walk up our legs until they were almost upside down.

“One of the children didn’t like it when he got horizontal, he’d become upset when we did it before.

“She told me that when I’d been off she was doing that with children and she had done it with that child, but he had got so upset that blood vessels had popped in his eye.

“The way she talked about it was as if she was just telling me what she had had for tea.”

The nursery’s owners said they “fully supported” the police throughout the prosecution and that Bell had been sacked when the allegations came to light.

In a statement released after Bell was convicted, Jennifer Martin, owner of Little Beehives nursery, said: “Children’s wellbeing is our number one priority and we fully support the actions of the police in bringing this action against an ex-employee who was dismissed from our service.”