Assistant director of DCFS in court on child assault charges
The trial of the assistant director of the Government’s child protection agency on charges she assaulted a girl in her care started yesterday.
It was alleged in Magistrates’ Court that Kennette Robinson, 52, punched and choked a 17-year-old girl who refused to board a flight to a residential school in the United States in May last year.
Ms Robinson, of the Department of Child & Family Services, denied that she grabbed, choked and punched the girl and stamped on her headphones.
Zoe Smith, an airport employee on duty at the time of the alleged incident, said that she saw the two in a “heated” argument.
She added: “I remember the young girl screaming.
“The young girl lunged at Ms Robinson.”
Ms Smith said that she earlier saw the girl try to leave the airport several times and heard her tell her guardians, including Ms Robinson, that she did not want to go.
She added that she saw Ms Robinson pull the girl to the front desk by her knapsack as she attempted to leave but the knapsack fell off.
Ms Smith said that Ms Robinson told the girl that she would get the knapsack back after she went through airport security, but the girl screamed and lunged at her.
She added that she saw Ms Robinson raise her hands towards the girl’s throat, but could not be sure if Ms Robinson made contact.
Ms Smith said: “I called the officer on duty and asked if she could send down airport police.”
She added that the incident happened about 20ft away from her.
Ms Robinson, from Devonshire, has pleaded not guilty to an assault on the teenager and the mistreatment of a child.
The court heard that the incident is alleged to have happened on May 8 last year after the girl, who was in the care of the DCFS at the time, refused to go back to a secure treatment centre in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Charles Richardson, who represented Ms Robinson, said that CCTV footage, which was played at the trial, showed that Ms Robinson and the girl were about 50ft from the woman when they were arguing.
He added: “This room is not empty – there are other people being checked in and many voices. The restaurant’s just down the hallway.”
The court heard that Ms Robinson told police in an interview last June that the girl was scheduled to leave the island on April 29 last year.
But the girl left her family home on the day of the flight and could not be found in time for boarding.
Ms Robinson told police that the girl agreed to go to back to Utah after she had been traced, but on May 8 refused to board the plane.
She said that she tried to convince the girl to go through airport security, but the girl refused and attempted to leave.
Ms Robinson added: “I took her iPad and her headphones and told her she would get them when we got through US Immigration.
“She became increasingly aggressive – and she has never gotten aggressive with me, ever. She said that she wanted her stuff back and she wanted it now, she’s not going.”
Ms Robinson said that the girl came at her from behind and attempted to grab her belongings, which forced Ms Robinson to push her “out of my space”.
She added that police officers had been called and the girl was taken away.
Ms Robinson admitted in the police interview that she threw the headphones, which had been bought by the DCFS, on to the ground and pretended to step on them.
But she added that she never punched the girl and insisted that the only physical contact she made with the teenager was when she pushed her away.
Detective Inspector Kenten Trott, who interviewed Ms Robinson, said that the CCTV cameras at the airport did not capture the incident but recorded the events that led up to the alleged assault.
He added that he had no knowledge of any other witnesses who had seen Ms Robinson throw a punch and that the alleged victim was the only person who made the claim.
Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo adjourned the case until October 22 and extended Ms Robinson’s bail.
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