The prosecutor's office has charged a 68-year-old woman with the abuse of five children living in foster care at her home, over a period of four years. The abuse included physical blows, and being made to stand for extended periods of time in the same location.
The indictment alleges that five stepchildren aged between nine and 17 had been repeatedly hit and kicked, and locked up for periods as long as several days, during the period 2016-2019.
The prosecution also charges the woman of forcing children to stand in a single spot for 12 or more consecutive hours as "punishment".
The latter charge falls under the penal code section dealing with unlawful deprivation of liberty, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.
"Getting a child to cool off in another room or forbidding them to go out with friends in the evening is a normal part of upbringing. However, hitting a child or locking them in a confined space for a long time is a crime, which needs intervention," said Kristine Tamm, chief prosecutor for the Western District Prosecutor's Office.
The criminal case was opened in August 2019 following a crime report from the Social Insurance Board (Sotsiaalkindlustusamet ), after a child protection worker had talked to a 9-year-old child who had been relocated from the home to live with another family.
Two more children who were still living at the same family home, under a care contract, were immediately relocated, ERR reports.
During the ongoing criminal investigation, evidence was found of abuse these three children, as well as evidence of abuse of two others who had previously lived with the same family.
The accused also stands charged with misappropriating belongings from a young adult, including a bicycle and computer and other things.
The accused themselves had filed a criminal report in January 2020, saying that a young male had stolen money from them in autumn 2018.
Depriving a minor of their liberty without legal basis carries a one to five-year imprisonment term, with misappropriation punishable either by a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, according to ERR's online Estonian news.
In line with general proceedings, the indictment has been sent to the court, with a preliminary hearing due to commence as part of the overall trial.
The prosecutor's office directs criminal investigations in Estonia.
Editor: Andrew Whyte