A care home company has been ordered to pay £100,000 after a teenager drowned under its supervision.
Umar Balogun, 16, from Waltham Forest, north-east London, died while swimming in a quarry at Bawsey Pits near King’s Lynn on July 16, 2013. He was under the care of Castle Lodge home in Cambridge at the time.
Castle Homes Limited, which ran Castle Lodge, pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches at the Old Bailey and has been fined £80,000 and costs of £20,000.
The court heard how the members of staff supervising the trip did not attempt to stop Umar and another boy from getting into the water despite a number of “No swimming” signs being on display.
Quentin Hunt, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said: “Mr Balogun was seen to duck under the water and did not reappear.
“Mr Balogun may have got caught out by the changing depth. He subsequently became entangled in weeds and drowned.”
The two residential support workers overseeing the excursion had very little experience, the court heard.
And despite a more experienced member of staff being available at the time of the trip, the “raw recruits” were sent unsupervised.
While both faced charges over the death of the teenager, a trial at King’s Lynn Crown Court cleared them of any wrongdoing.
Judge Mark Dennis QC says Mr Balogun’s death exposes “flaws in the system” as well as “obvious errors” on the day.
An HSE investigation uncovered that there was no satisfactory risk assessment in place for ad hoc trips and there had been “inadequate” training and induction of staff.
The lawyer said there was “systemic failure” at Castle Lodge occurring over a “long period”.
He said: “The failings of the company amount to high culpability. The company was directly and immediately responsible for the trip from the home which resulted in the fatal accident.”
A “moral decision” was taken to close Castle Lodge as it was “the right thing to do”, said barrister Angus Withington in mitigation.
Date Published: March 26, 2017
Author: Jonathan Brown