In his closing speech for the Crown, Robert Smith QC said two principal failures led to the death of Lydia Bishop, who became entangled in a rope on a slide in the nursery’s outdoor area on 17 September 2012.
Mr Smith said that the college management failed to ensure that health and safety measurements were not only in place, but were being followed by staff at the nursery.
The second failure was by nursery worker Sophee Redhead in failing to act when she saw Lydia going towards the slide that afternoon.
Robert Smith QC told Leeds Crown Court in simple terms that Lydia ‘was allowed to venture to the slide in the nursery entirely alone and completely unsupervised.’
The jury heard that on the day of the three-year-old’s death attached to the slide was a 16-metre length of rope woven around the base and with a loop on to the slide.
Mr Smith said, ‘Her (Lydia Bishop) death was completely avoidable because with the proper exercise of care she and other children at the nursery would never have become exposed to the risk of strangulation from becoming entangled in that rope with no-one to save them from such circumstances.’
He added that appropriate care by college management would have ensured not only that the proper safety procedures were in place, but also that nursery staff were aware of the need ‘to abide by them’.
‘If that had been done by senior and middle management at York College, Lydia would not have been left alone for 20 minutes with no-one questioning her absence or wondering what had happened to her and she would not have died’, he said.
Mr Smith told the jury that although the college was ‘very good at paper exercises on health and safety’, the management at various levels failed to ensure on the ground that nursery staff abided by them.
He said that there was a ‘systematic failure to monitor the effectiveness of their (the college’s) systems and ensure nursery staff were aware of the need to comply with procedures. It was not just the failure of staff, it was the failure of York College.’
The second failure was that of Sophee Readhead, who had failed to take action to stop Lydia when she saw her going towards the slide that afternoon and had not called her back or fetched her, said Mr Smith.
He went on to say that Ms Redhead had allowed the three-year-old ‘to go and play unsupervised in that area for 20 minutes when she knew there was a rope attached to the slide or ought to have known’.
Mr Smith told the court that there was a ‘serious failing’ by Sophee Redhead, which amounted to negligence, and it was up to the jury to say if that was a sufficiently high negligence to amount to manslaughter.
Nursery worker Sophee Redhead denies manslaughter by gross negligence and she and York College both deny a breach of health and safety.
Acting on behalf of York College, Richard Lynagh QC said the nursery had a reputation of ‘universal acclaim’, which was not achieved by ‘ticking boxes.’
He said, ‘This accident is something that was never foreseeable with a full complement of staff and two standing outside as demanded. It did not happen because of the system, it happened despite the system.
Mr Lynagh told the court that a risk assessment had been carried out, there were sufficient staff working that day and they (staff) knew how to protect children from injury.
He went on to say that the facts and allegations made against Sophee Redhead undermined the case against the college.
The jury has also heard from a parent whose children attended the nursery. Amanda Monaghan said she still trusted former nursery worker Sophee Redhead with her own children because she was such a ‘conscientious and caring person’.
Since the accident at the college, Ms Monaghan said she had stayed in touch with Ms Redhead who on occasions had stood in for her nanny after she went on maternity leave.
Alistair Macdonald QC, defending Sophee Redhead asked, ‘Is she the sort of person who would obey instructions?’ To which Ms Monaghan said, ‘Yes, definitely.’
Asked if Ms Redhead would put children at risk of harm, Ms Monaghan replied, ‘No, never, I trust her with my children.’
The trial continues.