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Three British teachers charged with negligent homicide after a 12-year-old girl drowned on a school trip to France have appeared in court today after French prosecutors said the trio should face three years in prison.
Steven Layne, Chantelle Lewis and Daisy Stathers are charged with the French equivalent of manslaughter by gross negligence following the death of Jessica Lawson in July 2015.
The schoolgirl, the youngest child on the trip, became trapped 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 heard Ms Lewis and Ms Stathers panicked after finding Jessica was missing, and both became emotional on the witness stand during Tuesday’s proceedings.
Mr Layne said he thought the pontoon was a safety feature and saw no signs of distress when he watched 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 have appeared in court today. Pictured: Teacher Daisy Stathers arrives Wednesday at Palais de Justice, Tulle, central France – where she is charged with the French equivalent of manslaughter – along with three other teachers
French prosecutors have said the trio must face three years in prison for the death of Jessica Lawson in July 2015. Pictured: Steven Layne arriving at Palais de Justice, Tulle on Wednesday
Pictured: Chantelle Lewis arriving at Palais de Justice, Tulle, central France, where she is charged with the French equivalent of manslaughter by gross negligence following the death of Jessica Lawson. The schoolgirl, the youngest child on the trip, became trapped after a pontoon capsized in a lake near the town of Limoges
The youngster’s mother, Brenda Lawson, told the court she expected the teachers at Wolfreton School in Willerby, near Hull, to have “respect and integrity” during the trial, saying she received little support from the school. , teachers or the UK.
She said she only learned the sequence of events leading up to her daughter’s death during the trial, and that neither the school nor the teachers had given her any explanation in the seven years since.
Jessica, who was 12 when she died, would turn 20 on Nov. 7 this year if she were alive today, Ms Lawson noted.
During her closing speech, Attorney Myriam Soria told Tulle’s head of jurisdiction, Marie-Sophie Waguette, that she recommends three years in prison for the three teachers, as well as for lifeguard Leo Lemaire.
Ms Soria also advised Ms Waguette that the local government in the town of Liginiac should be fined €45,000 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. Her swimming should have been watched closely.’
Ms Soria said none of the teachers could see where Jessica was while swimming due to a lack of supervision.
The prosecutor focused on the pontoon itself, saying the local government was “knowing about instability and aware of its age.”
Jessica’s parents, who followed the procedure through an interpreter, will find out on Wednesday whether their daughter’s teachers are guilty.
Speaking on Tuesday, Brenda Lawson told the court her family had been through “torture” since her daughter’s death.
Pictured: Leo Lemaire, who was a lifeguard on site, also waits three years for Jessica’s death. He will be seen here when he arrives in court on Wednesday
She also criticized the UK and Wolfreton School’s response to Jessica’s death, saying they “have failed to provide us with answers or help in any way.”
Asked to describe the schoolgirl, Ms Lawson told the court, “Describing Jessica is actually easy. We use the word sunshine and the brightness still stays in my life. She was full of fun, laughter and care.
“She was about to become a lovely young lady.”
Ms Lawson continued: ‘For me she should have turned 20 on November 7 this year so it’s been seven years for me and my family of what can only be described as an excruciating suffering of not understanding what happened to her or Why.
“That’s why I personally want to thank the French legal system for taking it seriously. From the second, they treated it with the seriousness it deserved and they immediately investigated.
Pictured: A post from Antony Lawson, Jessica Lawson’s father, on Facebook after her death in France in 2015, along with her photo
“Unfortunately for my family we got no response at all in the UK. The UK has not given us any answers or help in any way.”
Speaking about the impact of Jessica’s death on her and her family, Ms. Lawson said, “Most of our family’s vacations, most of our family’s free time, had to do with swimming and water. So as a parent and as a family, Jessica’s drowning is the most horrible thing that could have happened to her.
“We can’t look back on memories because there’s water everywhere – we’ve struggled for many, many years to face the present that we’re left with.”
Ms Lawson added: ‘I have transferred my parental responsibility to other people.
“She had only been in camp for 48 hours when I got a call from the school on my cell phone to say that Jessica had been involved in a serious accident and that she had been underwater for quite some time.
“Then they gave me the phone number for the hospital in Limoges so I could call and speak to the resuscitation department.
“So to me that was the worst thing a mother could accept—that I wasn’t there to protect her, take care of her, and say goodbye to her.”
Ms Lawson went on to recount a meeting she and Jessica’s father Tony had with the school a month before the trip – adding that they had given families a booklet stating that children would be supervised at all times.
Speaking about the meeting, Ms Lawson said, “We just went forward and said ‘will she wear a life jacket if she’s doing any of these activities?’ and they said yes.’
Pictured: The scene near Meymac in the Massif Central of France, where Jessica died
Tulle court chief Marie-Sophie Waguette asked Jessica’s mother, “Do you have any idea what happened to your daughter?”
Mrs Lawson replied: ‘Not really, because from the start it was never made clear to us what happened and why there was a pontoon. We never fully understood or were not explained to us why she was in the water.
‘It was only today that I understood that she had been hiking and kayaking and then this swimming.
“I was not aware of the sequence of events because after that first meeting in France with the head teacher, the British school and teachers refused to discuss anything else with us.
“If I’m being honest, listening to people here trying to explain what they’ve done for Jessica, it’s not really clearer because I expected those who had a duty of care for her to be open and transparent and have respect and integrity.” . for her mother as they have 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.”
Mrs. Lawson said she wanted to close her opening statement with words from her daughter’s secret diary, which read: ‘My future ambition is to become a nurse. The thought of others in need dedicates me to do well and succeed in my career path.’