14/08/2014 12:58 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Nursery Worker Cleared Over Death Of Toddler Lydia Bishop

North Yorkshire Police

A nursery worker burst into tears when a jury cleared her of manslaughter following the death of a three-year-old in her care.

Toddler Lydia Bishop died from asphyxiation when her neck was caught in a looped rope attached to a slide as she played unsupervised.

Nursery worker Sophee Redhead, 25, who was helping to supervise Lydia shortly before the tragedy, was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, but was cleared by a unanimous decision.

She was also cleared of an alternative charge of failing to take 'reasonable care' of the girl.

Instead, Leeds Crown Court decided that the owner of York College Nursery was to blame for safety failings that resulted in Lydia's death. It now faces an unlimited fine.

Miss Readhead's barrister had told the jury that bosses had 'hung Sophee out to dry' and criticised senior managers for failing to give evidence.

The court heard parents were unaware there was an 'attitude of neglect' at the nursery where a 'tick-box mentality' among management meant safety rules were followed on paper but not in practice.

York College – owner of the on-site nursery – will be sentenced next week for failing to ensure the health and safety of children.

Lydia died five hours into her first day at the nursery in September 2012. She had asked her mum, Rebecca Dick, to bring sweets 'for being good' when she picked her up and her final words were: "I love you mummy, see you later."

But her 24-year-old mum never saw her alive again. She and Lydia's father, Brad Bishop, 26, had dropped their daughter off at 9am.

A medical expert said the girl could have recovered had she been found within a few minutes of being choked, but there was a 20-minute delay before nursery staff found her. CCTV showed children twice played unsupervised on the slide that day.

There had been two accidents involving the rope weeks earlier. Lydia had walked around a 'futile' makeshift barrier of a bench and toy trolley designed to stop children from going to the play area alone.

Miss Redhead was accused of seeing her walk towards the slide and doing nothing, but the jury decided she was not to blame.

The CCTV showed Lydia climbing the steps to the slide, before a slight movement is seen at the top of the slide.

Almost 20 minutes later a member of staff realised Lydia was missing and asked Miss Redhead to check outside. She looked towards the slide and saw Lydia lying on it.

CCTV showed her running over and then carrying the lifeless girl in her arms.

She told the court: "As I got closer I saw something on the slide, something white. I realised that she was on the slide."

Miss Redhead untangled the rope from Lydia's neck.

She added: "I pushed her and shouted her name."

Despite desperate efforts at CPR, Lydia never regained consciousness.

Prosecutor Robert Smith, QC, said there had been 'systemic failure' by staff and management at York College to impose basic safety procedures.

Rules forbade children playing on the slide unsupervised and the ropes were supposed to be put away.

A risk assessment had identified the danger of strangulation.

York College said the nursery had been closed and would not reopen.