Firm to be sentenced for death at Bawsey Pits

Bawsey pits outside King's Lynn where two bodies were recovered from the lakes of Tuesday evening.
Bawsey pits outside King's Lynn where two bodies were recovered from the lakes of Tuesday evening.

The care home company where a youth who drowned at Bawsey Pits was being looked after will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday, March 10.

Umar Balogun, 16, of Waltham Forest in London, drowned 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.

The day was one of double tragedy as local man Ryan Pettengell entered the water in another part of the pits after believing he saw the missing youth and he too drowned.

Castle Homes had not carried out a proper risk assessment for the trip, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

It 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.

“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 headed 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, 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.’

Judge Mark Dennis QC adjourned sentence.

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