Three British teachers charged with negligent homicide after a 12-year-old girl drowned on a school trip to France arrived in court today after French prosecutors said the trio should be jailed for three years.
Steven Layne, Chantelle Lewis and Daisy Stathers are charged with the French equivalent of gross negligence manslaughter following the death of Jessica Lawson in July 2015.
The schoolgirl, who was the youngest child on the trip, became stranded after a pontoon capsized in a lake near the town of Limoges.
A trial at the Palais de Justice in the French town of Tulle has heard how Ms Lewis and Ms Stathers began to ‘panic’ after noticing Jessica’s disappearance, with the two becoming emotional on the witness stand during proceedings on Tuesday .
Mr Layne said he thought the pontoon was a safety feature and saw no signs of distress when he looked at the lifeguard after it capsized.
Three British teachers charged with negligent homicide after a 12-year-old girl drowned on a school trip to France arrived in court today. Pictured: Teacher Daisy Stathers arrives at the Palais de Justice in Tulle, central France, on Wednesday – where she is charged with the French equivalent of manslaughter – with three other teachers
French prosecutors say the trio should be jailed for three years for the death of Jessica Lawson in July 2015. Pictured: Steven Layne arriving at the Palais de Justice in Tulle on Wednesday
Pictured: Chantelle Lewis arriving at the Palais de Justice in Tulle, central France, where she is charged with the French equivalent of grossly negligent manslaughter following the death of Jessica Lawson. The schoolgirl, who was the youngest child on the trip, became stranded after a pontoon capsized in a lake near the town of Limoges
The youngster’s mother, Brenda Lawson, told the court she expected teachers at Wolfreton School in Willerby, near Hull, to have ‘respect and integrity’ during the trial, while claiming that She had received little support from school, teachers or the UK.
She said it was only during the trial that she learned of the sequence of events that led to her daughter’s death and that neither the school nor the teachers provided her with an explanation during for the next seven years.
Jessica, who was 12 when she died, would be 20 on November 7 this year if she were alive today, Ms Lawson noted.
During her closing speech, prosecutor Myriam Soria told the head of the jurisdiction of Tulle, Marie-Sophie Waguette, that she recommended three years in prison for the three teachers, as well as the rescuer Léo Lemaire.
Ms Soria also told Ms Waguette that the local authority in the town of Liginiac should be fined 45,000 euros for its alleged part in Jessica’s death.
In her speech, the prosecutor said: “Jessica Lawson was a good swimmer. She was a little girl. His swimming should have been watched with vigilance.
Ms Soria said none of the teachers could see where Jessica was while swimming due to a lack of supervision.
Speaking to the pontoon itself, the prosecutor said the local authority “was aware of the instability and knew its age”.
Jessica’s parents, who followed the proceedings through an interpreter, are expected to find out on Wednesday whether their daughter’s teachers are guilty.
Speaking on Tuesday, Brenda Lawson told the court her family had been through “painful suffering” since her daughter’s death.
Pictured: Leo Lemaire, who was a lifeguard at the scene, also faces three years for Jessica’s death. He is seen here arriving in court on Wednesday
She also criticized the UK and Wolfreton School’s response to Jessica’s death, saying they ‘didn’t provide us with any answers or help in any way’.
Asked to describe the schoolgirl, Ms Lawson told the court: ‘Describing Jessica is really easy. We use the word sunshine and brightness always stays in my life. She was full of fun, laughter and attention.
“She was about to become a charming young woman.”
Ms Lawson continued: ‘For me, she’s due to be 20 on November 7 this year, so it’s been seven years for me and my family of what can only be described as torturous suffering of not understanding what’s going on with her. happened or why.
“For this reason, I would personally like to thank the French justice system for taking him seriously. From the second, they treated him with the severity he deserved and they immediately investigated him.
Pictured: A message posted by Antony Lawson, Jessica Lawson’s father, on Facebook after her death in France in 2015, along with her picture
“Unfortunately for my family in the UK we have not received this response. The UK has not provided us with any response or assistance in any way.
Addressing how Jessica’s death had affected her and her family, Ms Lawson said: ‘Most of our family’s holidays, most of our free time was swimming and water related. So as a parent and as a family, for Jessica to drown is the most horrible thing that could have happened to her.
“We can’t go back to the memories because there’s water everywhere – we struggled for many, many years to come to terms with the present we have left.”
Ms Lawson added: ‘I passed on my parental responsibility to other people.
“She had only been in the camp for 48 hours when I was called on my cell phone from school to say that Jessica had been involved in a serious accident and had been underwater for some time. considerable.
“They then gave me the telephone number of Limoges hospital so that I could ring and speak to the intensive care unit.
“So for me, that’s the worst thing for a mother to accept – that I wasn’t there to protect her, take care of her and say goodbye to her.”
Ms Lawson then spoke of a meeting she and Jessica’s father Tony had with the school a month before the trip – adding that they had provided families with a booklet saying the children would be supervised at all times moment.
Speaking about the meeting, Ms Lawson said: ‘We just went to the front and said ‘will she be wearing a life jacket when she’s doing any of these activities? and they said yes.
Pictured: The scene near Meymac in France’s Massif Central where Jessica died
The president of the jurisdiction of Tulle, Marie-Sophie Waguette, asked Jessica’s mother: “Do you have any idea what happened to your daughter?
Ms Lawson replied: ‘Not really because from the start we were never told what happened and why there was a pontoon. We never fully understood or were told why she was in the water.
‘It wasn’t until today that I realized she had been hiking and kayaking and then this swimming.
“I didn’t know about the series of events because after that first meeting in France with the head teacher, the UK school and teachers refused to discuss anything else with us.
‘If I’m being honest, listening to people trying to explain here what they did for Jessica, it’s not really any clearer because I expected those who had a duty of care to her are open and transparent and have respect and integrity. for his mother in the way they behaved here.
“It’s a phrase I didn’t understand before this happened and it’s a phrase called ‘moral compass’ – doing the right thing.”
“Really, whatever the outcome for my family, we lost.”
Ms Lawson said she wanted to end her opening speech with words from her daughter’s secret diary, which read: ‘My future ambition is to become a nurse. The thought of others in need consecrates me to do well and succeed in my career.’