The family of a boy who choked on a piece of food at an Edinburgh nursery and died a day later have said that no level of fine “could ever come lose to reflecting their pain” as a nursery was told to pay £800,000.
Eleven-month-old Fox Goulding was being cared for at Bright Horizons Nursery in Corstorphine in July 2019 when he choked on a piece of mango.
On Tuesday, the nursery admitted failings under health and safety at work laws at Edinburgh Sheriff Court where it was handed the fine.
On receiving the verdict, the family said that “no monetary fine could ever come close to reflecting their pain or adequately address the senseless loss of Fox”.
Glen Millar, representing the Goulding family, said Tuesday’s guilty plea by the nursery was not seen by his clients as “any form of triumph or something that gives them even the remotest sense of satisfaction”.
Speaking on behalf of the family, he said: “They remain today as they have since July 9, 2019; numb, and frankly disbelieving at the neglect that led to their beloved son, Fox, losing his young life.
“Fox was abandoned by professionals who had been entrusted with his care, flying in the face not only of the laws of health and safety, but also principles of common sense and decency.
“The ultimate price was paid for that and, notwithstanding today’s conviction, it is the family who continue to have to deal with the aftermath.”
The court heard a staff member, who had been to the toilet, thought Fox was sleeping when, in fact, he was choking.
When she realised he was not breathing, she dialled 999 and staff tried to dislodge the blockage in his airway by slapping him on the back, and then tried to resuscitate him.
Once paramedics arrived they were able to remove the mango which was blocking his throat, and he was rushed to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children but died the following day.
The Crown Office said an investigation found that between May 21 2019 and July 9 that year, Bright Horizons Family Solutions failed to provide their staff at the nursery with suitable instruction and supervision to adequately control the risk of choking during mealtimes.
And, it said, the investigation also found a number of other occasions between the two dates when staff were involved in other tasks and not watching the children eat.
Since Fox’s death, the Crown Office said, the company has reviewed its policies and procedures and provided additional training to its Scottish staff.
Ros Marshall, managing director of Bright Horizons, said there “are no words which are adequate to console (Fox’s family) and we offer our heartfelt apologies”.
“Our acceptance of responsibility today makes clear that the mealtime safety procedures we had in place at our Corstorphine Nursery in 2019 were not properly observed, with terrible consequences,” she said.
“Every day, we care for children and fully appreciate that keeping children safe is always the first priority. We have comprehensively reviewed how we operate, including all our mealtime safety procedures, staff training and our supervision arrangements, to ensure that the right lessons were learned from this tragedy.
“Fox’s memory will forever live on in our hearts and minds, influencing our practice and shaping our approach to keeping everyone safe.”
Alistair Duncan, head of the health and safety investigation unit at the Crown Office, said the tragic death “could have been prevented if staff had been given suitable instruction and supervision in relation to their duties to properly supervise children’s mealtimes”.
He said: “Childcare providers have an enormous responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children in their care but, in this case, Bright Horizons Family Solutions failed to live up to that responsibility.
“This should serve as a warning to others of the devastating consequences of such failures.”
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