Three British instructors accused of negligent manslaughter in the death of a 12-year-old girl who drowned during a school trip to France appeared in court today, after French prosecutors recommended a three-year sentence.
Steven Layne, Chantelle Lewis, and Daisy Stathers are charged with the French equivalent of manslaughter by gross negligence in connection with the July 2015 death of Jessica Lawson.
After a pontoon capsized in a lake near the city of Limoges, the youngest student on the excursion became stuck.
During Tuesday’s proceedings at the Palais de Justice in the French town of Tulle, the court heard how Ms. Lewis and Ms. Stathers began to ‘panic’ after discovering Jessica was missing, with both women becoming upset on the witness stand.
Mr. Layne stated that he believed the pontoon to be a safety element and witnessed no evidence of distress on the lifeguard’s face after the pontoon capsized.
Today, three British teachers charged of negligent manslaughter after a 12-year-old girl drowned in France while on a school trip have arrived in court. Pictured: Daisy Stathers, together with three other instructors, appears at the Palais de Justice in Tulle, central France, on Wednesday, where she is accused of the French equivalent of manslaughter.
French prosecutors have recommended that the three defendants serve three years in prison for the murder of Jessica Lawson in July 2015. Wednesday shows Steven Layne arriving at Palais de Justice in Tulle
Chantelle Lewis arrives at the Palais de Justice in Tulle, central France, where she is charged with the French equivalent of manslaughter by gross negligence in connection with Jessica Lawson’s death.
The youngest student on the excursion became stranded when a pontoon capsized on a lake near the city of Limoges.
Brenda Lawson, the child’s mother, told the court that she expected instructors from Wolfreton School in Willerby, near Hull, to have’respect and integrity’ during the trial, but that she had little assistance from the school, teachers, or the United Kingdom.
She stated that she learned the facts leading up to her daughter’s murder only during the trial, and that neither the school nor the teachers had offered her with an explanation in the seven years since.
Ms. Lawson observed that Jessica, who was 12 when she died, would have turned 20 on November 7 of this year if she were still living.
During her closing statement, prosecutor Myriam Soria recommended to Marie-Sophie Waguette, the head of jurisdiction in Tulle, that the three teachers and lifeguard Leo Lemaire be sentenced to three years in prison.
Ms. Soria also suggested to Ms. Waguette that the local government of the town of Liginiac be penalized 45,000 euros for its suspected role in Jessica’s death.
The prosecutor stated in her speech that Jessica Lawson was an excellent swimmer. She was a young child. Her swimming should have been closely watched.’
Due to a lack of surveillance, Ms. Soria stated that none of the teachers could see where Jessica was during the swim.
Referring to the pontoon itself, the prosecution stated that the local administration was aware of its age and instability.
Wednesday, the parents of Jessica, who have been following the proceedings through an interpreter, will learn whether their daughter’s instructors are guilty.
Since her daughter’s murder, Brenda Lawson told the court on Tuesday that her family has endured “torturous sorrow.”
Leo Lemaire, a lifeguard at the scene, is also facing three years in connection with Jessica’s death. He is seen here on Wednesday coming to court.
She also criticized the UK and Wolfreton School’s response to Jessica’s death, stating that they “did not give us with any explanations or assistance.”
When asked to characterize the student, Mrs. Lawson stated, ‘It’s quite simple to describe Jessica.
We use the term “sunshine,” and its radiance continues to illuminate my life.
She was filled with joy, laughter, and concern.
She was on the verge of becoming a charming young girl.
Mrs. Lawson stated, ‘She would have turned 20 on November 7 of this year, so it has been seven years of what can only be characterized as terrible anguish for myself and my family, not knowing what happened to her or why.
“Because of this, I would like to personally thank the French court system for taking it seriously.
The second one was dealt with the severity it warranted, and an investigation was launched immediately.
Pictured is a Facebook message by Jessica Lawson’s father, Antony, after her death in France in 2015, along with her photograph.
Unfortunately for my family, we received no such answer in the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom did not provide us with any answers or assistance.’
Mrs. Lawson stated, in reference to how Jessica’s death had affected her and her family, that the majority of her family’s vacations and spare time were swimming and water.
Therefore, as a parent and a family, Jessica’s drowning is the worst thing that could have happened to her.
We have battled for many, many years to confront the present that we were left with; we cannot look back on memories because water is everywhere.
Mrs. Lawson continued, “I delegated my parental responsibilities to others.”
“She had just been in the camp for 48 hours when I received a call on my cell phone from the school informing me that Jessica had been in a terrible accident and had been submerged for an extended period of time.
“They then gave me the telephone number of the hospital in Limoges and instructed me to contact the resuscitation ward.”
That I wasn’t there to defend her, take care of her, and say goodbye to her has been the most difficult thing for me to swallow as a mother.
Mrs. Lawson went on to describe a meeting she and Tony, Jessica’s father, had with the school one month before to the trip, adding that they had issued families with a pamphlet stating that children would be constantly watched.
Mrs. Lawson described the meeting as follows: “We just went to the front and said, “Will she use a life jacket when participating in any of these activities?” and they accepted’
Jessica died near Meymac in the Massif Central region of France, as depicted above.
Marie-Sophie Waguette, the head of jurisdiction in Tulle, questioned Jessica’s mother, “Do you know what happened to your daughter?”
Mrs. Lawson said, ‘No, since from the beginning we were never told what transpired and why there was a pontoon.
We never really comprehended or were not told why she was in the water.
“It was not until today that I realized she had gone trekking, kayaking, and then swimming.
“I was unaware of the sequence of events since, following the initial meeting in France with the head teacher, the school and teachers in the United Kingdom refused to discuss anything more with us.
‘If I’m being honest, listening to people explain what they did for Jessica here has not made it any clearer, because I expected those who had a responsibility of care for her to be open and upfront, and to treat her mother with respect and integrity in the way they have conducted themselves here.
“Before this event, I did not comprehend the term’moral compass’, which refers to the desire to do the right thing.
In reality, regardless of the outcome for my family, we have lost.
Mrs. Lawson stated that she want to conclude her introductory remarks with excerpts from her daughter’s private diary, which read, “My future dream is to become a nurse.”
The notion of others in need motivates me to achieve professional success.