Rhiya Malin, pictured below, was found trapped in the playhouse at Eton Manor Children’s Day Nursery in Chigwell, Essex, on 7 November 2007.
Casterbridge Care and Education Limited and Casterbridge Nurseries (Eton Manor) pleaded guilty to health and safety failings and were fined £75,000 each and ordered to pay £70,000 in costs to Epping Forest District Council, which brought the prosecution case.
Nursery assistant Kayley Murphy was fined £2,400 for failing to ensure Rhiya’s safety and given 12 months to pay.
Ms Murphy was among staff supervising children in the outdoor area and had been talking on her mobile phone immediately prior to the incident.
During the trial, the court heard that it was not unusual for staff to use their mobile phones while looking after children, even though they were not allowed to use them.
Karen Jacobs, the nursery manager at the time, who was not in the nursery on the day of the incident, was cleared in February by a crown court of alleged safety failings.
Following the sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court the district council's portfolio holder for the Environment, councillor Will Breare-Hall, said, ‘On behalf of Epping Forest District Council, which brought these prosecutions to court, I would like to offer my deepest sympathy and condolences again to Rhiya’s parents, Jay and Shatl Malin.
'Our decision to bring the prosecutions was taken after very careful consideration. We felt there was a clear public benefit in bringing the cases to court. People taking care of our children must understand the weight of responsibility they hold, both personally and professionally.
'By bringing this case to court, and raising awareness about the safe operation of children’s nurseries, we hope we can reduce the chances of other parents ever having to go through a similar experience.’
He added, 'Today’s sentences cannot bring Rhiya back but I believe that the Judge’s comments, in her sentencing statement, which clearly linked the companies’ health and safety shortcomings with Rhiya’s death, will send a strong warning to other companies entrusted with the care of our children. Having procedures in place simply isn’t good enough.
'Everyone, from the managing director down to the most junior staff, is responsible for ensuring not only that adequate health and safety procedures are in place but that they are properly followed as well.'
Bright Horizons acquired Casterbridge Nurseries in May 2012.
A Casterbridge spokesperson said, ‘Our thoughts are with the parents and family of Rhiya Malin in their grief. We accept that there were serious health and safety breaches at Eton Manor. Since this tragic incident, Casterbridge has been taken over by new owners, and has a new management. The safety and happiness of those entrusted to our care will always be our first priorities.’