Old Bailey hears of “systemic failure” before 16-year-old drowned at Bawsey Pits, near King’s Lynn

Bawsey Pits, near King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Bawsey Pits, near King’s Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

A company running a network of children’s homes is facing a huge fine after a teenager drowned on a trip to a Norfolk beauty spot.

Umar Balogun, 16, died at Bawsey Pits, near King’s Lynn, on July 16, 2013, while on an outing with support workers from Castle Lodge care home in Cambridge, where he was living.

The staff supervising the trip were all inexperienced and there were large ‘no swimming’ signs all around the waters edge.

Castle Homes, which is a privately run company, had not carried out a proper risk assessment for the trip, the Old Bailey heard.

The company admitted failing in their duty to ensure the health and safety of Mr Balogun, and another youngster, in their care back in April 2016.

Care workers Vanda Cawley, 50, and Kevin Roweth, 27, stood trial for failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of Umar and another youngster from the home, but were cleared by a jury at King’s Lynn Crown Court.

An inquest into the 16-year-old’s death returned a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Roweth had worked at the home for just 10 days before the death, while Ms Cawley had not completed her six months probation period.

Key members of staff had been moved to a recently opened children’s home owned by the company, the court heard.

Prosecutor Quentin Hunt said: “Umar Balogun and another boy entered the water accompanied by two employees – neither of the two employees made efforts to stop the young men entering the water.”

He added that there were many people in the water at the time, although there were a large number of ‘no swimming’ signs around the water’s edge.

“Umar was seen to duck under the water and did not reappear – it appears he might have been caught out by a change in the depth and became entangled in weeds. Divers were sent in and they recovered the body.”
The court heard that the boys’ care home in Cambridge had just three residents, and provided them with one to one care at all times. Castle Homes would carry out risk assessments for long-term activities such as boxing, but did not fill out the forms for one-off trips. Both boys were quite new to the home.

Mr Hunt said: “The Crown said the failings of the defendant company amount to high culpability and it fell far below the appropriate standing.

“It was directly and immediately responsible for the trip from the home that resulted in the fatal accident and the training and induction of staff was inadequate.’

“There was no adequate system in place to ensure that trips from the home were adequately risk assessed and staff were unaware of the policy for risk assessments for the trips from the home.”

He added that there was a “systematic failure” within the home to properly risk assess day trips over a long period of time.

Angus Withington, for Castle Homes Ltd, told the court that the company had been praised by the regulator for the care it took in safeguarding children.

“There was a deep level of care and concern taken for these young people – who through no fault of their own and because of the difficulties they had experienced in their young lives – were in considerable need.”

Castle Homes Ltd, headquartered at High Street Kettering, Northamptonshire, is facing a fine for breach of a duty to someone other than an employee.

Ms Cawley, of Hazel Court, Werrington, Peterborough, and Mr Roweth, of Edinburgh Drive, Wisbech, both in Cambridgeshire, were acquitted of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of the young people in their care.

Source: Eastern Daily Press

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