Renee Cluff

Email Renee Cluff

Court hears fraudulent sign-in led to child’s death in childcare centre minibus


The Cairns Magistrate's Court has heard the 'fraudulent' signing in of a three year old boy to the Goodstart Early Learning Edmonton centre, contributed to his death.

The centre’s manager and minibus driver Michael Lewis, 45, and staff member Dionne Grills, 34, faced the court today charged with manslaughter.



In opposing bail for Mr Lewis, Police Prosecutor Senior Sergeant Maynard Marcum told the court a series of systemic failures that were criminal in nature, ultimately led to the boy’s death in the child care centre’s minibus.

“The foundation of the charge is the breach of duty of the caregiver,” he said.

“This is an act of criminal negligence appalling in its nature.”

CLAIMS OF FRAUD

The court heard the boy was not collected on the first minibus run and the van was sent back to collect him following a phone call from his mother.

Senior Sergeant Marcum said the mother’s call came an hour after the child had already been entered into the child care centre’s system as being present.

He claimed that action was linked to special child care benefits the centre received from the Federal Government, which were based on attendance.

The court was told the toddler had already used up all his absences under the system.

“The centre benefitted by obtaining those funds,” Senior Sergeant Marcum said.

“It was a fraudulent transaction that was part of how this tragedy occurred.

“The dishonest approach in signing in children with high absence rates.

"The child was signed into the QuikKids system (childcare management software) but he was never present.

“The failure to use the sign-in on the bus, the misuse of the QuikKids system all culminated in…they’ve somehow forgotten the three year-old strapped into the vehicle."

The court heard the child was picked up at 9.15am and strapped into a seat two rows behind the driver’s position. His mother did not sign him into the bus as was protocol.

Senior Sergeant Marcum said the bus arrived at the centre at 9.33am, but the boy was never taken off.

“Somehow, in three and a half, four and a half kilometres, the child was forgotten,” Senior Sergeant Marcum said.

The van was later used for at least one other appointment at Bayview Heights before the toddler was found dead around 3pm, when the vehicle was parked outside Hambledon State School.

TRIPLE-OH CALL

A transcription of the triple-oh phone call Mr Lewis made to emergency services was read out in court.

“Oh my god this is kid is dead,” it said.

“A child was left on the bus all day.

“I’m going to jail, this is all my fault.”

The court was told Mr Lewis managed the centre for 10 months before Goodstart Early Learning suspended his employment. He’d been working there since 2015.

His co-accused, Ms Grill, had only been employed casually at the centre for a month.

Police say both had been on the bus.

BAIL GRANTED

Magistrate Jacqui Payne considered the bail application for Mr Lewis for around ten minutes before reaching a decision.

She said she wasn’t convinced there was an unacceptable risk of him failing to appear or contacting crown witnesses, telling the court there had been ‘extraordinary cooperation by the defendant with the police.’

Bail was also granted to Ms Grills, whose lawyer said one of the concerns was that her client might be a risk to herself.