YORK College has been fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 in court costs over the death of a three-year-old girl at its nursery.
Lydia Bishop died when she became entangled in a rope left on a slide in the playground at the Sim Balk Lane site in September 2012, on her first day at the nursery. She was not seen for 20 minutes and had been able to pass a barrier which staff knew did not prevent children reaching the slide.
The college has today been fined £175,000 for "specific" and "systemic" health and safety breaches and ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £45,453 from the trial.
Mr Justice Coulson said: "A child is priceless, so the loss of a child is an irredeemable loss."
He said the sentence was not an effort to put a value on the life of Lydia Bishop, who died on the nursery's slide when her neck was caught in a rope and she lay there unnoticed for 20 minutes.
Leeds Crown Court heard the nursery closed immediately after the tragedy on September 17, 2012, and its closure cost the college £400,000. It will not reopen.
The college denied breaching health and safety regulations but was convicted last week after a trial. [See last week's report here]
A jury found the college guilty of failing to ensure children's safety between August 1 and September 18, 2012.
Nursery worker Sophee Redhead, 25, who had been accused of gross negligence manslaughter and failing to ensure Lydia's safety, was cleared at the end of a three-week trial which ended last Thursday.
College principal Alison Birkinshaw said today: “We remain deeply saddened by the events of 17th September 2012 and we know that no family can ever recover from the death of a child. Nothing can reduce the pain felt by Lydia’s family and we are truly sorry for what has happened. Lydia and her family will be forever in our thoughts.
"We remain committed to learning from these tragic events and took the difficult decision to close the nursery permanently immediately after the tragedy.
"While the nursery was separate from the College, we also brought in the British Safety Council to conduct a full inspection of health and safety implementation across all College sites.
"As noted by the judge in his closing sentencing remarks: 'the college has taken a number of steps to ensure that this sort of accident could not happen again.'
"We would like to thank the local community for the support shown to everyone affected by these terrible events.”
The case heard safety measures intended to prevent children using ropes on their own or go onto a slide unsupervised were not enforced at the nursery.
The rope which Lydia - who lived with her mother, Rebecca Dick, in South Bank, York - became entangled in had been left tied to the slide against health and safety policy.
More to follow.