Dicky Birds nursery ordered to pay £200k over jelly choking death

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A nursery has been ordered to pay nearly £200k in fines and costs after a toddler in its care choked to death on a cube of jelly.


Tiya Chauhan choked to death

Tiya Chauhan was aged 22 months when the tragedy happened at Dicky Birds nursery in Wimbledon, south London, in August 2012.

Tiya swallowed the raw jelly during a ‘sensory game’ which featured a spaghetti and jelly swamp and toy insects.

She was found unconscious on the nursery floor and later pronounced dead in hospital.

Dicky Birds Pre School Nurseries is a family-owned business with other nurseries in Wimbledon, Raynes Park, New Malden and Surbiton.

The case was sent to Kingston Crown Court after an inquest jury found Tiya’s death was accidental contributed to by neglect.

At the time, Westminster coroner Fiona Wilcox, said, ‘The jury concluded there was a gross failure on the part of the nursery to provide appropriate care for Tiya.

‘There was inadequate communication between all staff, which was a gross failure.

‘There was a significant failure to carry out adequate risk assessments relating to the jelly cube.’

Last month, the nursery admitted two health and safety breaches and returned for sentencing yesterday, 21 March.

Judge Peter Lodder QC ordered Dicky Birds to pay a £180,000 fine, plus costs of just over £17,234.

Following the sentencing, nursery owner Rachel Berry said, 'First and foremost, I am so deeply sorry for what happened to Tiya.

'Although the accident was more than three-and-a-half years ago, I can only start to imagine the impact Tiya's loss has had on her family.’

On the day of the accident, children were taking part in a ‘free-flow’ play session where they had the freedom to choose from a range of pre-planned activities and at certain times of the day were able to move between rooms. 

According to the nursery, staff would routinely move as and when appropriate to stay within ratios. One of the activities on offer that day was a sensory play table including the jelly for ‘texture and colour’.

A member of staff left the table to manage the behaviour of another child, which a Dicky Birds spokesman described as an ‘instinctive decision’ that left the table unsupervised for between 45 and 75 seconds.

During that time Tiya ate a small piece of the jelly and collapsed.

Ms Berry added, ‘I hope that the conclusion of the proceedings provides [Tiya’s family] with some form of closure and comfort, in what I am sure continues to be a very difficult time for them.’

Following the guilty pleas last month, Tiya’s mother Dipa and father Chetan said they felt they had not received justice and called for the nursery to be closed.

Mr Chauhan said: ‘The nursery will be fined, but the big thing for us is its criminal conviction that other parents will be able to see on the health and safety website. 

‘This is about supervision and risk assessment across the nursery, where they allowed ‘free flow’ to happen. They were trying to do too many things and there weren’t enough people.

‘They put out dangerous activities unsuitable for children Tiya’s age and messed up that day. It wasn’t well managed.

‘If a child dies it’s surely in Ofsted powers to shut a nursery down. I don’t feel we will ever get justice.’

The judge gave the nursery until 20 May to pay £100,000 and until 20 November to pay the remaining £80,000. 

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