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Teachers and lifeguard found not guilty of manslaughter after 12-yr-old drowned on school trip

The three teachers were facing charges of manslaughter by gross negligence when Jessica Lawson drowned while swimming in a lake near Limoges in 2015
(Representative Image, Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)
(Representative Image, Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

LIMOGES, FRANCE: A French court has acquitted three British teachers, Steven Layne, Chantelle Lewis, and Daisy Stathers of the Wolfreton School in Willerby, near Hull. They were initially charged with the equivalent of manslaughter by gross negligence in connection with the death of a 12-year-old schoolgirl named Jessica Lawson in 2015 during a school trip. The child drowned and died while swimming in a lake near Limoges.  

During the trial in the Palais de Justice in Tulle, the educators were cleared of any misconduct. A not-guilty verdict was also passed for Leo Lemaire, who was working as a lifeguard at the time of the incident, as well as the local authority in the town of Liginiac.


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When the judgments were read out, Lawson's father Tony, walked out of the courtroom, and at the same time, both Lewis and Stathers started crying. Stathers' lawyer Stephane Babonneau's claimed that the teachers had experienced anguish "similar" to that of Lawson's family over her death. During the trial, Lawson's mother Brenda told the judge that she anticipated the instructors to behave with "respect and integrity."

Lewis was given the opportunity to voice her opinion before the head of the jurisdiction in Tulle's delayed hearings. The physical education instructor said that the suffering was "different to what the family experiences." When given the chance, Layne and Stathers chose not to comment. Florian Godest Le Gall, who is Lewis' legal counsel, stated the instructors' reaction times were as fast as they could possibly be, and he added that dynamically monitoring pupils did not entail looking at one student "every microsecond."

Le Gall said the PE teacher “suffers under the weight of responsibility”. Anis Harabi, one Layne's attorneys, stated that Lawson's death was an accident with no "culprits" and that his client should not be expected to be "clairvoyant." Harabi stated that he did not consider the swimming area to be harmful because it was "supervised." Layne's other attorney, Dominique Tricaud, said that the three educators had searched "tirelessly" and reacted "simultaneously" when they realized Lawson was gone.

Prosecutor Myriam Soria recently made a recommendation tha tLayne, Lewis, and Stathers, in addition to Lemaire, be sentenced to three years in prison for their suspected role in the death of Lawson. In addition to this, she recommended that the local administration in the town of Liginiac be fined €45,000 (~$44,488.58) for their actions.