Nursery fined £800,000 after baby chokes to death on fruit

Fox Goulding died in hospital after chocking on a piece of fruit at Bright Horizons Corstorphine Nursery in 2019.

Nursery fined £800,000 after baby chokes to death on fruit Getty Images
Bright Horizons nursery was fined £800,000 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

An Edinburgh nursery has been fined £800,000 following the death of a baby boy who died after choking on a piece of fruit while in its care.

Fox Goulding was 10-months-old when he died in hospital the day after choking at the nursery in July, 2019.

The nursery admitted failings under Health and Safety at Work legislation at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

An investigation found that – between May 21 and July 9, 2019 – the nursery failed to provide employees at the Corstorphine nursery with suitable instruction and supervision to adequately control the risk of choking during mealtimes.

The investigation also found a number of other occasions during the same period when staff were involved with other tasks and, therefore, not watching the children eat.

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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”.

He added: “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.

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“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.”

Alistair Duncan, head of the health and safety investigation unit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said: “This 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.”

“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 Ltd failed to live up to that responsibility.

“This should serve as a warning to others of the devastating consequences of such failures. My sincere condolences are with the family as they attempt to come to terms with their loss.”

Fox was eating dinner at Bright Horizons on 9 July, 2019, when he began to choke. A staff member returned from using the bathroom and thought he was sleeping.

When she realised he was not breathing, an ambulance was called and staff attempted to dislodge the blockage in his airway by slapping him on the back. They also performed CPR.

Paramedics arrived and managed to remove the obstruction, which was later found to be a piece of mango. Fox was taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children but died the following day.

Since his death, Bright Horizons says it has reviewed its policies and procedures, and provided additional training to all Scottish staff.

Ros Marshall, the company’s managing director, issued an apology on the nursery’s behalf on Tuesday.

She said: “Our thoughts continue to be with Fox Goulding and his family. There are no words which are adequate to console them 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.

“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.”