William Carter secures acquittal of care home worker charged with causing death of two young men

26 January 2017

William Carter secured acquittal for his client in a tragic case heard at Norwich Crown Court recently. Vanda Cawley and Kevin Roweth were Residential Support Workers for Castle Care Ltd. Cawley had been with the home since March 2013 and was still in her probationary period, when on 16th July 2013 she was told to take two young men, both 16, to Bawsey Pits near Kings Lynn. Her co-defendant, Kevin Roweth, also went to supervise the boys. He had been at the home an even shorter period than she had, a mere three weeks. Bawsey Pits is a well-known beauty spot but, as an old gravel pit, the lakes there are in fact very uneven in depth and the bottom is covered in thick weed. For this reason there are a large number of signs warning 'Danger - No Swimming'. The allegation was that despite seeing the signs and, it was said, being ill-informed of the boys' swimming ability, the defendants allowed them to enter the water and to swim. Tragically one of them drowned. Both defendants were charged with failing to take reasonable care that the boys in their charge did not come to harm, contrary to the provisions of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

The defence was that this was, in truth, a breakdown of a system and not the criminal act of an individual. William Carter was able to demonstrate that the defendants' training had been in many respects inadequate and that communication by more senior members of staff that day had been lacking. As to the signs, it was argued that given the presence of many other people of all ages in the water, some of them considerably further out that the boys, it had been reasonable to allow them into the water. The defendants denied that they had allowed the boys to swim, they had been in the water up to their waists only. The jury acquitted both defendants. Castle Homes had previously pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later. For more information and press links, see below:

1. BBC

2. ITV

3. EPD24