YORK College defended its health and safety procedures when its principal was questioned under a police caution following the death of a three-year-old girl in its nursery, a court heard.

In a prepared statement, Dr Alison Birkinshaw began by expressing “deep sorrow” at Lydia Bishop’s death on September 17, 2012, gave details of how the college dealt with potentially dangerous activities involving staff, students and children, and then declined to answer any questions.

Earlier, the jury at Leeds Crown Court heard that Sophee Redhead, a member of the nursery staff charged with the manslaughter of Lydia by gross negligence, 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 that, she had alleged that the search for Lydia began three to five minutes after the child went to the slide where she was fatally injured with a rope.

The prosecution alleges that Lydia was unsupervised for up to 20 minutes and that the college's health and safety procedures were fine on paper but not in practice.

Both Redhead, 24, of Wenham Road, Foxwood, and the college deny a health and safety charge and Redhead denies manslaughter.

Neither the college or Redhead have any convictions, the jury heard.

Dr Birkinshaw was interviewed as the college's representative by police and the Health and Safety Executive simultaneously on October 5, 2012. Before questioning began, she gave them her prepared statement, which was read to the jury.

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 the college’s thoughts were with all the parents, staff and children of the nursery.

About general health and safety at the college, the statement said: “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 through all levels of the college and its management.”

According to the statement this included a four-man health and safety team, daily management inspections, reports to a specialist committee, senior management and the college's trust and internal and external audits.

The nursery’s garden had been designed by a specialist children's playground design company, the statement said.

The trial continues.