Teachers cleared of blame over 12-year-old girl’s school trip death

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

Jessica Lawson died after a pontoon capsized in a lake near the city of Limoges in July 2015. She was the youngest pupil on the end of year trip from Wolfreton School in Willerby, near Hull.

Teachers Steven Layne, Chantelle Lewis and Daisy Stathers were charged with the French equivalent of manslaughter by gross negligence over the tragedy, with prosecutors claiming they should each be jailed for three years.

But at the Palais de Justice in the French town of Tulle yesterday, the trio were all cleared of any wrongdoing.

The lifeguard on duty at the time, Leo Lemaire and the local authority in the town of Liginiac were also found not guilty.

Jessica’s heartbroken father, Tony Lawson, left the courtroom as the not guilty verdicts were announced, with both Ms Lewis and Ms Stathers breaking down into tears.

The head of jurisdiction in Tulle, Marie-Sophie Waguette, ruled they had not been under any obligation to carry out any specific safety checks prior to the 23 children entering the water.

She said: “The area was being surveyed by the lifeguard, the lifeguard was present, the flag was green.”

Ms Waguette also told them: “There was not any reason to think that the floating platform could turn over.”

The court heard a time period of between five and 10 minutes elapsed between the platform overturning and the lifeguard recovering Jessica from the water.

Ms Waguette added: “We don’t know why her drowning took place at the time when the platform turned over.

“There is therefore no evidence to show that they were negligent, therefore you are found not guilty.”

The two-day trial was told how Ms Lewis “started to panic” during the tragedy and “asked ‘where’s Jess’?”

Her colleague, Ms Stathers, said she also became “increasingly panicked” after realising Jessica was missing, adding: “But there were 23 other students we were trying to get out (of the water) so I was trying to stay calm.”

The teacher who was in charge of the trip, Mr Layne, told the court he thought the pontoon was a safety feature.

Jessica’s mother Brenda Lawson said her family had been through “torturous suffering” since her daughter’s death, describing her as “full of fun, laughter and care”.

Dominique Tricaud, the lawyer for Mr Layne, said: “Afterwards the question was if a criminal mistake has been committed and the answer of the court is that nobody has committed any criminal mistake.

“Nobody is able to say how Jessica drowned, first, and secondly all that has been done by the professors and the lifeguard was exact regarding the rules to try to save her.”

Earlier in the day Jessica’s father Tony Lawson left the courtroom after Stephane Babonneau, acting on behalf of Ms Stathers, claimed the teachers had suffered pain “similar” to the family following the death.

Opening the two-day hearing on Tuesday French prosecutor Myriam Soria recommended Mr Layne, Ms Lewis and Ms Stathers, as well as lifeguard Leo Lemaire, be jailed for three years for their alleged part in the schoolgirl’s death.

Ms Soria also advised Ms Waguette that the local authority in the town of Liginiac should be fined 45,000 euro.

Source: Read Full Article