Nursery slammed over toddler death

Child death at nursery


A former nursery owner has been slammed for showing "gross incompetence" after a toddler was strangled to death while in her care.

Molly Cunliffe was choked to death after she wrapped a drawstring round her neck from a clothes bag attached to her cot at Tiddlywinks nursery, in Gloucester.

Gloucester Crown Court heard the nursery had been warned the 16-month-old had a habit of wrapping things around her neck and was left unattended by staff for more than 20 minutes.

Rosemarie Meadows, 45, who owned the nursery at the time of the tragedy, was fined £55,000 after pleading guilty to one count of breaching health and safety regulations.

Sentencing Meadows, Judge Mark Horton said: "This was such an obvious risk that virtually no parent in their own home would have considered this, let alone professionals who should have been responsible."

He said staff had shown "gross incompetence" for failing to heed the warnings of Molly's parents.

Last year, an inquest heard Molly was in the care of a 17-year-old student and an unqualified member of staff while senior managers held a meeting upstairs.

Prosecutor Bernard Thorogood told the court toddlers should have been checked every ten minutes, a proper risk assessment had not been carried out and the habit of leaving bags on cots had gone unchallenged.

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Sion Kingston from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "Placing children in the care of a nursery is worrying for any parent even if the nursery's standards of care are excellent. For a child to be killed in such circumstances is devastating.

"The sentence handed down reflects the severity of the offence committed but will be little recompense to the child's parents.

"The nursery owed a contractual and common law duty of care to ensure the child was safe whilst in their care. This included the need to have properly qualified staff and also to have an appropriate level of supervision reflecting the age of the child involved. For a child so young to be left for so long was inexcusable and by any standard, negligent.

"The problem in this case is that the criminal sanctions are woefully inadequate and civil remedies similarly poor."