Article by Piers Mayler: Nursery supervisor Rosie Dunn's world came crashing down around her when she was charged in March last year with a racially aggravated public order offence related to the treatment of children at Abacus Day Nursery in Billericay, where she worked.
But the 25-year-old former Shenfield High School student, was acquitted within hours of her trial starting at Basildon Magistrates’ Court in December.
Last week, the prosecution offered no evidence at Basildon Crown Court when Miss Dunn’s boss at Abacus, Emma Panting, was due to go on trial accused of child cruelty, two counts of assault by beating and a racially aggravated public order offence.
With both women now cleared, Miss Dunn spoke with reporter Piers Meyler about her year from hell.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by"]I had my solicitor with me. She was as shocked as me and I just broke down and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. That was most upsetting – I don't think it sunk in properly at the time. They said the words and I just broke down.[/quote]
Miss Dunn's nightmare started when she was summoned for a police interview after officers acted on a trainee employee's claims that she heard her make a racist comment to a child.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Miss Dunn said, speaking to the Gazette"]But it was a complete and utter lie. I felt the police dealt with the whole situation badly. I don't understand how it got taken so far from the statements that must have been given. They had no idea what they were talking about. It was a few weeks after the whole thing came out with Emma [Panting] that I was questioned and told I was a suspect and these allegations had been made against me. It was a horrible feeling that someone could make up lies about you and it had gone this far with such a lack of evidence.[/quote]
The consequences of the charges had huge ramifications for not just Miss Dunn but for Emma Panting and the seven other nursery staff members who lost their jobs when it shut.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Miss Dunn"]It ruined so many people's lives – the poor parents and children. I think I feel sorrier for them because they had to go through it with us and they had to find a whole new setting for their children. Initially that is what upset me the most. I had such a strong connection with the children and parents and it upset me that they had to rebuild a new life and I was scared of their opinion of me. But luckily I have had a lot of support from them. Those parents think they can trust you to look after their child and then this happens. Everything must have gone through the parents' heads – they start questioning. But because I loved all those kids so much, that was the hardest thing for me, thinking I'm never going to see them again. I had such as good relationship with them all.[/quote]
In the months after being charged, Miss Dunn was on medication, battling sleepless nights and worry.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Miss Dunn"]When things get tough I am one of these people who has to keep busy and has to keep my mind off things. That is what I had to do but deep down it has really affected me. I don't trust as many people. It will take some time for me to decide what I do later. My mum was in shock – she was angry that someone could accuse her daughter of doing or saying something I would never say. When the case got extended, I felt I needed to pick myself up.[/quote]
It was only at trial that it became clear there was not a case against Miss Dunn, following the disclosure of conflicting statements.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by"]I was relieved because finally the truth came out and my innocence was proven. Childcare was a huge passion of mine. I have always wanted my own nursery and it has tarnished my reputation and it scares me to do it now. I never did anything wrong but I would be worried about what other people think. I would love to go back but it is going to take some time. I have had huge support from a lot of the parents because they knew I was innocent. They supported me the whole way.[/quote]
Miss Dunn still keeps in touch with Emma Panting, although she says it was hard while her case was ongoing and she was not allowed to contact her.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by"]Emma and I got on really well. But we weren't allowed to see each other from the time she got arrested and was on bail. That was very hard because obviously we all wanted to be there for her because we knew she was innocent. Abacus was a really happy place. We all had really good relationships and friendships. We all went out together and socialised together all the time. We socialised with some of the parents too. I would love to go back to it but it is what other people think and I am scared of trusting people in that area of work.[/quote]
Miss Dunn says she still babysits for some of the parents and she has done some child-minding for three former staff who left some years ago.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by"]It is nice people can still trust me after an allegation was made against me. It's nice there are people out there who trust me with their children.[/quote]
Miss Dunn has since switched to a career in catering.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Essex Police"]Essex Police thoroughly investigated this case and had a large amount of material to provide to the CPS in time for the trial to be held. The majority of the evidence obtained had been provided to the CPS many months ago but unfortunately some of the more detailed work was only recently completed and this unfortunately led to the CPS determining there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction. While this is a disappointing outcome Essex Police would like to reassure the public that every effort was taken to ensure all the evidence in the case was provided to the prosecutors as soon as it became available.[/quote]