York College, which closed the 112-place nursery for good in October 2012 after the three-year-old died as a result of becomng entangled in a rope on a slide in the nursery's outdoor area, denies failing to ensure people not in its employment are not exposed to a risk to their health safety.
A prepared statement by York College’s principal, Dr Alison Birkinshaw, the college’s representative, which she gave to police and the Health and Safety Executive before being questioned on 5 October 2012, has been read to the jury at Leeds Crown Court.
It began, ‘On behalf of the college, I would like to express our deep sorrow to the parents for this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with Lydia’s family.’ It also said that the college’s thoughts were with all the parents, staff and children of the nursery.
The statement went on to say, ‘We have always been very health and safety conscious. There are a variety of systems and procedures in place to ensure that health and safety is both considered and dealt with effectively across the college.
‘I am confident that these procedures are implemented well throughout all levels of the college and its management.’
According to the statement, the health and safety systems and procedures the college has in place include a ‘four-man’ health and safety team, daily management inspection, reports to a specialist committee, senior management and the college’s trust and internal and external audits.
The statement also said that the nursery’s garden had been designed by a specialist children’s playground design company.
After handing over the prepared statement, Dr Alison Birkshaw refused to answer any questions.
Earlier, the jury heard that nursery worker Sophee Redhead, charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, which she denies, had also declined to answer police questions in late September and November 2012 after giving a prepared statement and asking to see the witness statement she had given police the day after the accident.
In her witness statement, Ms Redhead alleged that the search for Lydia began three to five minutes after the three-year-old went to the slide where she suffered fatal injuries.
However, the prosecution alleges that Lydia was unsupervised for up to 20 minutes, and also that the college’s health and safety procedures were fine on paper, but not in practice.
The trial continues.