THE death of three-year-old Lydia Bishop on a slide at York College Nursery was “completely avoidable” prosecution counsel claimed to the jury.
In his closing speech for the Crown, Robert Smith QC said two principal failures led to the tragedy on September 17, 2012, the first by the college management to ensure that health and safety measures were not only in place, but were being followed by staff at the nursery The second was by nursery worker Sophee Redhead in failing to act when she saw Lydia going towards the slide that afternoon.
Mr Smith told Leeds Crown Court yesterday in simple terms Lydia “was allowed to venture to the slide in the outdoor area of the nursery entirely alone and completely unsupervised.”
Attached to the slide that day was a 16-metre length of rope woven around the base and with a loop on to the slide.
“Her 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 said appropriate care by college management would have ensured not only that the proper safety procedures were in place but 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 entirely alone for 20 minutes with no one questioning her absence or wondering what had happened to her and she would not have died.”
Mr Smith told the jury as the evidence unfolded during the trial they had no doubt wondered how such a state of affairs had arisen.
He said it was the prosecution’s case that the first failure arose because although the college were “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.
“There was here a systemic failure to monitor the effectiveness of their systems and ensure the nursery staff were aware of the need to comply with procedures laid down that was not just the failure of staff it was the failure of York College.”
That would have ensured no child went to play on the slide unsupervised and that the rope was put away after play.
The second failure was that of Sophee Redhead, who had failed to take action to stop Lydia when she saw her going towards the slide that afternoon and who had not called her back or fetched her, allowing her “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.”
He said there was a “serious failing” by Redhead which amounted to negligence. It was for the jury to say if that was a sufficiently high negligence to amount to manslaughter.
Redhead, 25 of Wenham Road, Foxwood, York denies manslaughter by gross negligence and she and the college both deny a breach of Health and Safety.
On behalf of the college Richard Lynagh 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 forseeable with a full complement of staff and two standing outside as demanded. It did not happen becuase of the system, it happened despite the system.
“A rope left as it never had been before and a child left unobserved for 20 minutes.”
He said a risk assessment had been carried out, there were sufficient staff working and staff knew how to protect children from injury. Mr Lynagh said the facts and allegations made against Sophie Redhead undermined the case against the college.
Defendant ‘easily the best nursery worker’, court told
A BUSINESSWOMAN told a jury she still trusted former nursery worker Sophee Redhead with her own children because she was such a conscientious and caring person.
Amanda Monaghan said yesterday she had got to know Redhead well when her two children attended York College Nursery and because her son played with Redhead’s children they had extra play days together.
She told Leeds Crown Court since the accident at the college when Lydia Bishop died she had stayed in touch and Redhead stood in for her nanny on occasions after that woman went on maternity leave.
While at the college she said she considered Redhead “easily the best nursery worker.”
“To her it was more than a job. Sophee is quite a shy and a gentle person naturally, but as soon as she’s around children she just comes to life.”
“She is very warm and nurturing and loving. She would always give them cuddles and is very diligent with them, a very conscientious person and because I knew her outside the nursery I knew she cared about the children.”
Alistair MacDonald QC, defending Redhead, who denies the manslaughter of Lydia in September 2012, asked: “Is she the sort of person who would obey instructions?”
“Yes definitely,” replied Mrs Monaghan. “She’s worked for me since and she is definitely conscientious in that sense.”
Mr MacDonald asked if in her judgment Redhead would put children at risk of harm. “No, never, I trust her with my children,” replied the witness.
Mrs Monaghan said she received a phone call from the college after the death and rang Sophee Redhead, but she was too upset to talk.
“She was distraught. She just broke down, she was sobbing.”
Since then she had seen a change in her.
“She just feels the pressure of what she is going through and how immeasurably her life has changed.”
The trial continues.