Toddler injury: nursery had no licence

  • Appeal withdrawn: Vernesha Symonds, owner of Heavenly Blessings Nursery and Preschool (File photograph)

    Appeal withdrawn: Vernesha Symonds, owner of Heavenly Blessings Nursery and Preschool (File photograph)

The owner of a daycare shuttered after a child was seriously injured was operating without a licence, a court heard yesterday.

The Supreme Court heard in a civil case that Vernesha Symonds, the owner of Heavenly Blessings Nursery and Preschool, was not licensed at the time a 12-month-old boy sustained a serious head injury last October.

Brian Moodie, the lawyer for the respondent, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, said: “The evidence before the court, in the form of affidavits, is that the appellant did not have a licence to operate a daycare centre at the time the incident occurred, and continues to be without one today.”

Michael Weeks, then minister of social development and sport, elected to close the Pembroke facility as a precaution on October 30.

He said at the time that it was too early to confirm if the child’s injury had been caused at the daycare.

Mr Weeks did not name the nursery involved but said that there has been “a few” previous incidents. Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, named the nursery at a press conference a few days later.

Ms Symonds launched legal action against the Minister of Social Development and Sport over the closure. Mr Moodie told the court that the last licence issued to Ms Symonds had expired on August 31.

Sharon Rampersad-Ible, representing Ms Symonds, disputed the claim.

She said: “She did have a licence. The only thing that was left to do ... was collect it.”

Ms Rampersad-Ible pointed to an e-mail between Ms Symonds and Tache’ King, an environmental health officer with the Ministry of Health, from October 8 that confirmed receipt of licence application materials.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams pointed out that Ms King was not the person responsible for issuing licences.

She asked Ms Rampersad-Ible: “Is this the best evidence you rely on to demonstrate the licence had been renewed?”

Ms Rampersad-Ible responded: “Yes.”

Mr Moodie pointed out fees needed to be paid before licences were issued.

Ms Rampersad-Ible admitted that her client had not paid any fees.

After a brief recess to change courtrooms, Ms Rampersad-Ible announced that after conferring with her client it had been decided to withdraw the appeal.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams called the announcement “most unexpected” but agreed to dismiss the case.

Both parties agreed to bear their own costs.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette yesterday, Ms Rampersad-Ible said she realised she was “facing an uphill battle”.

She added of the decision to withdraw the appeal: “It was the right one.”

Calls to Ms Symonds yesterday afternoon were not returned by press time. An investigation was launched by the Bermuda Police Service into the circumstances surrounding the boy’s injuries.

A police spokesman said yesterday: “The investigation is ongoing and is in its advanced stages.”

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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