MANSLAUGHTER CHARGE FOR THIS?
Should a charge of manslaughter be brought against anyone who does not adequately fence their backyard swimming pool in which a child drowns?
The stagnant pool where the toddler drowned. Photograph Tim Barnsley via The Daily Telegraph.
Yes, says Katherine Plint one of the country’s leading campaigners on child drowning prevention.
”It sets a legal precedent, which is what we want. Councils need to enforce laws and those owners refusing to fix their pools need to be prosecuted,” Ms Plint, founder of the advocacy group Hannah’s Foundation told Fairfax media.
A man has become the first person in New South Wales to be charged with manslaughter over a backyard drowning death.
Police allege Armidale man Philip Cameron, 61, caused the death of a two-and-a-half year-old boy by failing to adequately erect a suitable pool barrier in keeping with backyard pool legislation.
The toddler, who cannot be named, was with his mother at Cameron’s neighbour’s place in Armidale on May 14 when he wandered out to the yard and into Cameron’s adjoining property.
Police allege Cameron had not repaired a broken perimeter fence, which acted as a pool barrier, for up to 12 months, and it remained unfixed the afternoon the little boy fell into it.
The boy’s distraught mother pulled her child from the pool unconscious.
He was rushed to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital where he was on life support for two days before he died.
After a two-month investigation, police on Tuesday charged Cameron with manslaughter.
He will face Armidale Local Court next month.
The pool was described as “ a bit of a cesspit” by neighbours.
The toddler, his parents’ only child, was playing with his mother in their front garden at about 4pm on May 14 when he wandered off. Ms Plint, who has been involved in the investigation, said the mother looked away for ”a matter of seconds” to talk to a neighbour.
Australian Criminal Law Specialists principal lawyer Nick Boyden said police have always had the power to charge a person with manslaughter over inadequately fenced pools, by way of criminal negligence, even if this is the first time it has been used.
“You’d have to prove a duty of care to the deceased, as the owner of a backyard pool… And that the person breached that duty of care which caused the death of the deceased,” Mr Boyden said.
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