A NURSERY worker wept today as she was cleared of all charges in relation to the death of a three-year-old girl who got her neck caught in a rope on a slide.
Sophee Redhead, 25, burst into tears as she was found not guilty of the manslaughter of Lydia Bishop, at Leeds Crown Court.
Miss Redhead was also cleared of an alternative charge under health and safety legislation of failing to take "reasonable care" of the little girl.
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A three-week trial heard how Lydia died on her first day at the York College nursery following the accident in an outdoor play area.
The college was found guilty of health and safety breaches and will be sentenced on February 14.
The trial heard that Lydia was blue and not breathing when Miss Redhead found her in the play area in September 2012.
All efforts to revive her by nursery staff, paramedics and doctors at York Hospital failed.
Prosecutors said Lydia had been left entirely to her own devices for what was to be a prolonged period and 20 minutes passed before staff went to find out where she was.
CCTV images from the nursery showed Lydia walk alone towards the slide and climb the steps before she vanished from view.
About 20 minutes later, Miss Redhead was shown running towards the area and then, shortly after, rushing back carrying the child.
Earlier in the day, Lydia and other children were caught on camera playing unsupervised on the slide.
Despite a risk assessment identifying ropes to be a potential hazard to children, they were not put away every night, and had been left tied to the slide for weeks or months before she died, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors accused the nursery of having a tick box mentality towards health and safety, which meant legislation was followed on paper but not in practice.
Miss Redhead, of Wenham Road, York, who had worked at the nursery for six years, told the court she had been vigilant with regard to Lydia.
In a statement after the verdicts, York College principal and chief executive Alison Birkinshaw said: "This has been an extremely difficult period for all involved and we remain devastated by the awful events of September 17, 2012.
"We deeply regret what happened and can't begin to imagine the pain experienced by Lydia's family and everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. They remain constantly in our thoughts.
"The governing body and all at York College respect fully the legal judgments made in this case and remain committed to learning from this tragedy."
The nursery has been closed since Lydia's death and will not reopen.
Detective chief inspector Nigel Costello, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "As we have seen in this case, health and safety is more than just a tick-box exercise, it is something which must be properly and strictly put into practice by all members of staff otherwise you are faced with a tragedy which could ultimately have been avoided."