Police reopen probe into boy’s injury
An investigation into the case of a one-year-old boy who suffered a serious head injury has been reopened by police.
The incident resulted in the government-imposed shut down of Heavenly Blessings Nursery and Preschool, but the closure order was lifted more than six months later after prosecutors found there was not enough evidence “to support any criminal liability”.
A police spokesman said last week: “The Bermuda Police Service can confirm that this matter remains under active police investigation.
“However, it would be inappropriate to provide any further comment at this time.”
Police declined to comment on the focus of the latest inquiries.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, which had responsibility for the 2018 closure order, said last night: “An update has been recently requested from the Bermuda Police Service's vulnerable persons unit on the matter.” Vernesha Symonds, who owned the nursery, which shuttered permanently in the wake of the original investigation, said yesterday she was not aware that the case had been reopened.
The BPS revealed on October 28, 2018 that detectives took part in inquiries after staff from the Department of Child and Family Services reported that a child had been treated for a head injury at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital two days earlier.
A spokesman said then: “Apparently the infant, said to be a 12-month-old boy, was initially admitted to the intensive care unit but later flown overseas by air ambulance for further medical treatment.”
Michael Weeks, at the time Minister of Social Development and Sport, which then included the DCFS, said on October 30, 2018 that “initial inquiries” led the department “to make recommendations for the closure of the daycare facility” where the child was enrolled.
He explained that, in line with the Children Act 1998, a letter was hand-delivered to the nursery — at that time unnamed — “to inform them that they are to cease operation until the completion of a police investigation”.
Mr Weeks said: “A letter will be issued to all parents this evening indicating the closure as well as providing a listing of alternative registered daycare facilities.
“This will affect 29 children currently enrolled at the daycare facility.
“We are very concerned with the condition of the child and our last medical update indicated that his condition had improved.”
He added: “We have not determined yet if his injury occurred at school or at home, but better to err on the side of caution.”
The ministry was abolished in a Cabinet reshuffle about 48 hours after Mr Weeks's statement and the DCFS became the responsibility of the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, named the childcare centre on the same day. She said: “As the ministry responsible for administering the licensing and registration process for daycare centres and daycare providers in home settings, we are acutely aware of the need for quality care and the history of concerns.
“These concerns have been highlighted by the recent report of an infant allegedly suffering a head injury during his time in a daycare centre.
“All affected families have been notified now, so we can advise that the centre in question was Heavenly Blessings Nursery and Preschool.”
The Ministry of Health confirmed in May 2019 that the Heavenly Blessings Nursery closure order — which became the health minister's responsibility — was lifted “following the conclusion of the Bermuda Police Service investigation”.
A spokeswoman said then that the Pembroke daycare centre's licence had expired.
The BPS said then that “investigations conducted into allegations of a 12-month-old infant boy potentially sustaining a serious head injury” at a preschool were “closed pending any new developments”.
A spokesman added: “A completed case file was submitted to the Department of Public Prosecutions and following review, it was determined that there is insufficient evidence to support any criminal liability and/or pursue this matter through the criminal courts.”
Sharon Rampersad-Ible, a lawyer who acted for Ms Symonds, said at the time: “My client and her employees feel vindicated. They have had their names sullied in mud and have suffered immeasurable damage emotionally, financially and professionally. They have had death threats levied against them. From the inception of this unfortunate incident, they have maintained their innocence, but the powers that be saw fit to take drastic measures.”
She added: “As Mrs Symonds's attorney, I still maintain that the action taken by the Government was premature and certainly favoured only one side.”
Ms Rampersad-Ible added: “A small business is now closed permanently since, this late in the school year, parents will be unwilling to move.”
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