Page last updated at 08:33 GMT, Saturday, 30 May 2009 09:33 UK

Sheriff calls for blind cord ban

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Muireann's parents want a ban on blind cords to prevent other deaths

A sheriff has warned that millions of homes across Britain with window blinds may contain a potentially lethal trap for young children.

In a written judgement into the death of Clackmannanshire toddler Muireann McLaughlin, Sheriff David Mackie called for a ban on looped blind cords.

The two-year-old girl died at her home in Menstrie after being strangled by a cord on 5 February last year.

The sheriff's findings have been welcomed by Muireann's family.

The toddler was killed after climbing onto a toy box to wave goodbye to her grandmother from the upstairs window of her home.

The paradox of the situation in the UK is that the strangulation hazard from looped blind cords and the means of minimising that hazard have been known of for nearly 20 years
Sheriff David Mackie

A fatal accident inquiry at Alloa Sheriff Court heard that she slipped and banged her head on the ledge, causing her neck to become tangled in the cord.

Evidence from the inquiry suggested she may have died in as little as 20 seconds.

In his findings, Sheriff Mackie detailed the desperate struggle by Muireann's father Angus McLaughlin, a radiographer trained in CPR, to revive his daughter.

Mr McLaughlin carried out chest compressions on Muireann for 45 minutes after finding her hanging from the cord.

Despite efforts by paramedics at Stirling Royal Infirmary, the toddler was declared dead half an hour after getting to hospital.

Sheriff Mackie said the dangers associated with looped blind cords, which are linked with the death of at least one child a year in the UK, had been well-known in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain since the early 1990s.

He said: "The paradox of the situation in the UK is that the strangulation hazard from looped blind cords and the means of minimising that hazard have been known of for nearly 20 years."

'Public domain'

He added that the shortcomings of regulation to ensure the safety of the product had been known since 2004.

Sheriff Mackie called for safety warnings to be attached to the blinds in future.

He also said public awareness about the dangers they presented needed to be raised and that manufacturers should be made to take note of the strangulation risk their product presented to children.

READ THE RULING

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He said: "The replacement of many thousands of existing blinds and blind cords will take decades.

"The need for public awareness is, therefore, paramount."

The sheriff added: "If even some of the foregoing recommendations are followed, if public awareness is raised not least by the publicity which will be attendant upon publication of this determination and the loss of a young life can be avoided in this and future years, then the family of little Muireann will have the slight consolation that her untimely and tragic passing will not have been entirely in vain."

Muireann's family have become ardent campaigners against looped blind cords since their daughter's death.

Speaking after the inquiry's findings were published, the toddler's father Angus McLaughlin paid tribute to Sheriff Mackie.

He said: "We'd like to commend Sheriff Mackie for his careful and very thoughtful deliberations and recommendations."

Mr McLaughlin said a fatal accident inquiry into his daughter's death meant the dangers of looped blind cords could be better understood.

He added: "It's very unusual for this to happen. It has allowed all of this to come into the public domain, especially to heighten awareness of loop cord products and allow parents to make the decision themselves about whether to have these in their homes or not."


Have you been affected by a similar incident involving blinds?

Please let us know about your experiences.

Send us an email to newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk with the words "Blind cord incidents" in the subject line.



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SEE ALSO
FAI sees 'shocking' hanging video
27 Mar 09 |  Tayside and Central
Expert warns of more blind deaths
13 Mar 09 |  Tayside and Central
Child died waving to grandmother
12 Mar 09 |  Tayside and Central
Parents talk of 'beautiful girl'
06 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central
Father calls for looped blind ban
12 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central
House debates looped blind cords
11 Mar 08 |  Tayside and Central
Calls to ban toddler death blinds
27 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central

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