A THREE-YEAR-OLD girl died on her first day at York College nursery because a member of staff left her unsupervised for 20 minutes and the management had a “tick box” approach to health and safety, a court has been told.
Jurors saw a video of Lydia Bishop running towards a slide that the prosecution claim staff, including Sophee Redhead, knew was potentially dangerous because it had a rope attached to it.
Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said the video showed she lay fatally trapped in the nursery’s garden for nearly 20 minutes before staff realised she was missing.
He said: “At that point, Sophee Redhead ran in panic to the slide and found Lydia on the slide with the rope coiled round her neck. She was carried into the nursery. She was not breathing and she was blue”.
Despite resuscitation efforts by staff, paramedics and at York Hospital’s accident and emergency unit, she was declared dead later that afternoon.
Quoting medical opinion, the barrister said: “It was likely Lydia would have recovered fully if she had been found within a few minutes.
He claimed Redhead, a qualified child care professional, had been “grossly negligent” because she had seen Lydia going towards the slide and had not followed her despite a nursery ban on children playing on the slide unsupervised.
She had told police she had been sitting at a picnic table in the garden and had seen Lydia going towards the slide a few minutes before the search started.
He alleged the college had a “tick box” approach to health and safety. Its paperwork was of a “very high standard”, but it did not ensure sensible procedures were followed by its staff and had allowed dangerous practices to continue for weeks, possibly months, at the nursery.
Redhead, 25, of Wenham Road in Foxwood, denies the manslaughter of Lydia by gross negligence and an alternative charge of failure to ensure her safety on September 17 2012. York College denies failure to ensure the safety of children at the nursery between August 1 and September 18, 2012.
The jury will visit the nursery today before hearing evidence at Leeds Crown Court.
Opening the prosecution, Mr Smith said Lydia’s mother Rebecca Dick was a student at the college and that the daughter was one of 15 older children being supervised by three staff on September 17.
He alleged children were free to play in the garden and that a “makeshift” barrier of garden furniture was insufficient to stop children going to the slide.
He showed the jury CCTV he alleges shows children other than Lydia going past the barrier earlier on September 17.
He claimed a risk assessment of the slide rated the chances of children being entangled in the rope as “extremely unlikely”. The assessment said the ropes should be removed when not in use and could only be used under supervision.
But, he alleged, the rope had been left on the slide and despite police inquiries the person who attached it was “ unknown”.
Mum-of-one Redhead had been employed by the nursery since it opened in 2007. Her statement, read out to court, said that she had seen Lydia playing in a sandpit before walking towards the area of the slide.
She described sitting on the slide with a child who was crying, and after about “three to five minutes”, another nursery worker calling her to say Lydia had not had her snack.
“I started walking towards the slide,” her statement said.
“I called for Lydia to come and get her snack. I could see something on the slide, but didn’t realise what it was.
“I could see something white, but didn’t realise it was a pair of trousers. As I got a little bit closer I could see it was Lydia on the slide. I could see her wellies and knew something was wrong.
“Her head was about six inches from the top of the slide. As I got to the slide I could see that a loop of rope was round her neck.”
Mr Smith said the college had “fundamental flaws” where they had risk assessments of a “high standard”.
The trial continues.