Cot firm stays away from baby death inquiry

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A GRIEVING mother was denied the chance to hear directly from the boss of the company that produced the faulty cot in which her baby son died, a court heard yesterday.

The head of furniture supplier Cosatto was not called to give evidence at the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the death of Ainslie Smith, who died, aged eight months, after becoming trapped between the mattress and the slatted side of the cot as he slept.

Tony Anderson, representing Alexandra and Ainslie Smith, the baby’s parents, said: “Mrs and Mrs Smith had hoped that the CEO and director of Cosatto would have been called to give evidence. Mrs Smith wanted to look them in the eye.”

Ainslie died in his cot at the family home in Pitlessie, Fife, in July 2009. His “sheet-white”, lifeless body was discovered by his mother when she went to check on him at 10:30pm, less than two hours after she had put him in his cot following a happy family day watching rugby.

Independent product safety consultant John Trinsi, 52, said previously that the £200 wooden cot, bought by the Smiths a month before the tragedy, exhibited a major design defect.

In his final submissions to the FAI at Cupar Sheriff Court, Mr Anderson said: “There is no escaping that Mrs Smith researched online to purchase the cot – she had taken a great deal of time.

“For the first six months of Ainslie’s life, the baby slept in a crib at the bottom of his parents’ bed, allowing them to keep a watchful eye on their first-born, as any dutiful and diligent parent would have done, as they are told that it reduces the risks of cot death.

“Mrs and Mrs Smith had hoped that the CEO and director of Cosatto would have been called to give evidence. Mrs Smith wanted to look them in the eye.

“But it was decided they would not appear, following submissions that were agreed.”

He went on: “She placed her trust in the manufacturers in the hope that her little boy would sleep soundly, but that little boy never woke up. Mr and Mrs Smith now have to live with that tragedy on a day to day basis.”

The Smiths, who are both vets and are expecting their third child, attempted CPR, but they could not revive Ainslie.

In April 2010, Cosatto issued a safety enhancement device for Stratford cot beds made between 2005 and 2009. The court heard a new version of the cot, which did not exhibit the flaw, was produced a number of months before the Smiths bought the original design.

Advocate Barry Smith, representing the firm said Cosatto had exhibited an “over-reliance” on external EN 716 standard testing, which, he said, had “limitations”. The cot was tested by two separate external organisations, and the flaw was not flagged up.

Mr Trinsi told the court Cosatto should have carried out further in-house safety tests during the design phase.

Advocate Mr Smith said: “It is not disputed that the defect was the split end of the cot and that the death could have been prevented by securing that split end. That defect should have been picked up in the design phase. Reasonable consumer expectations were clearly not met, that is plain.

“A reasonable precaution whereby the death might have been avoided could and should have been taken, namely the identification of the fault and action to secure the split end.”

Sheriff Charles MacNair said he would give his findings and recommendations as soon as possible.