Cambridgeshire workers go on trial over boy's death at Bawsey

Two support workers have gone on trial accused of failing in their duty of care to a boy they took to a West Norfolk beauty spot where he died.

Tuesday, 10th January 2017, 6:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 9:27 am
Bawsey pits outside King's Lynn ENGANL00120130717155042

Umar Balogun, who was 16, drowned after going into the water at Bawsey Pits, near King’s Lynn, on July 16, 2013.

He went there with another boy and support workers Vanda Cawley and Kevin Roweth, who worked for the company which ran the Cambridgeshire home where he lived.

Cawley, 50, of Hazel Croft, Werrington, Peterborough, and Roweth, 29, of Edinburgh Drive, Wisbech, both deny charges of failing to take reasonable care of the boys’ health and safety.

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King’s Lynn Crown Court heard that Umar had been assessed to be at “high risk” when swimming, and should only swim in pools where lifeguards were present.

As the prosecution case opened today, the jury of seven men and five women was told the group would have seen signs telling them not to swim in the lakes around the site.

They also allege that Cawley and Roweth did not carry out a risk assessment of the area.

During questioning by prosecuting barrister Quentin Hunt, Michelle Batchelor, an outgoing manager at the home, said she would have expected staff to assess risks on an “ongoing basis.”

She added that she would also have expected workers to read risk assessments related to swimming before going to Bawsey, but stressed she had not been at the home on the day of the tragedy and did not know what activities were intended.

The jury was also told that Umar and two other boys living at the home had been taken to Hunstanton nine days before the tragedy.

One was recorded as going into the sea “up to his waist.” He was then assessed to be a “high risk” for swimming, the same as Umar, the following day.

But Miss Batchelor admitted to having concerns when she heard that Cawley and Roweth, who had only been working for the company for four months and three weeks respectively, had gone to Bawsey instead of more experienced staff.

Under cross-examination by William Carter, for Cawley, she also conceded she would not expect risk assessments to have been brought to the notice of the defendants, who were working at the home on a temporary basis, if they were not discussed at the shift handover.

She added that they should have been made aware of the assessment when the issue did come to light.

The trial, which is scheduled to last for nine days, continues.