York College Nursery: College guilty, nursery worker acquitted

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York College has been found guilty over the death of three-year-old Lydia Bishop at its nursery.

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York College has been found guilty of the death of Lydia Bishop at its nursery

A jury yesterday found the college, which operated the nursery, to blame for safety failings that caused the three-year-old to die after becoming entangled on a rope on a slide in the setting’s outdoor area in 2012.

Nursery worker Sophee Redhead, who was accused of manslaughter by gross negligence and failing to ensure Lydia’s safety, has been cleared.

York College now faces an unlimited fine over the death of Lydia Bishop. The college will be sentenced next week.

A statement published on York College’s website from its principal and chief executive Alison Birkinshaw states, ‘This has been an extremely difficult period for all involved and we remain devastated by the awful events of 17 September 2012. We deeply regret what happened and can’t begin to imagine the pain experienced by Lydia’s family and everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. They remain constantly in our thoughts.

‘The governing body and all at York College respect fully the legal judgements made in this case and remain committed to learning from this tragedy. The College took the decision to close the nursery immediately after the tragedy, and it will not reopen.’

Yesterday the court saw CCTV evidence of a rope left overnight on the slide in the hours before Lydia’s death and heard it had been left out on previous occasions.

The risk of children injuring themselves by getting the rope tangled round their necks was identified in a college risk assessment, which said all ropes should be put away after use. The assessment also stated that the rope and slide should only be used under supervision.

Earlier on in the trial, Robert Smith QC, for the prosecution, told the court 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.

The jury also heard that the college awarded itself an ‘outstanding’ grade in an internal health and safety audit of the nursery that was conducted through a questionnaire and emails. It did not include an actual inspection of the nursery.

Giving evidence for the prosecution, nursery manager Liz Radford has said she had seen nothing to concern her when she inspected the area where the slide was as part of her duties.

Other nursery staff, who were prosecution witnesses, said Ms Radford was rarely seen in the nursery garden, spending much of her time in the nursery office or on teaching duties elsewhere in the college.

They also said they did not see the health and safety manager David Jackson inspect the nursery. If he did come to the setting, it was in response to issues raised by staff.

Neither David Jackson or the college’s principal Alison Birkinshaw gave evidence during the trial. However, Ms Birkinshaw defended the college’s health and safety procedures when police interviewed her as a representative of the college after the tragic incident.