Bill Braithwaite QC and Catherine Howells establish Northampton Council was negligent over boy’s pool accident

June 16, 2015

A judge in a multi-million pound compensation case has ruled Northampton Council is liable for damages after a boy “nearly drowned’ unnoticed at a town swimming pool.

The boy, aged six at time of the incident in February 2002, was represented by Bill Braithwaite QC and Catherine Howells from Exchange Chambers. He sustained catastrophic brain injuries after he slipped unnoticed under the water at Danes Camp Pool in Northampton.

Judge Sir Colin Mackay backed a negligence claim against the pool’s managers, Northampton Borough Council, saying two lifeguards had “failed in their duty of care”.

The guards “failed to identify him as a child at risk” even before the non-swimmer got into the water, the judge ruled.  They also neglected to “continue to scan the water and pool bottom to satisfy themselves that he was not in difficulties”.

The court saw CCTV of the boy lowering himself into shallow water at the pool.  Minutes later another swimmer noticed his “lifeless” body lying on the bottom of the pool and dragged him out.  Poolside first aid and paramedics managed to save his life, but he was left with “significant brain damage due to oxygen deprivation”.

Experts agreed the boy had been underwater for more than two minutes and 40 seconds.  The judge said he had been “unobserved” by the lifeguards.

Commenting on the case, Bill Braithwaite QC said:

“Throughout the time the case has been going on, Northampton Borough Council has denied responsibility – even when given clear opportunities to admit their failing, at a significantly reduced cost to the council tax payer.

“They disputed that it was a breach of duty to fail to see that the boy had slipped unnoticed under the water for that amount of time.  They then argued that, once the boy had inhaled water into his lungs, he was doomed to suffer brain damage until he was intubated – which requires anaesthesia – and ventilated.  That defence was also rejected.  As always, the evidence and the selection of experts was vital in establishing that the council failed in their duty of care.”

The amount of the boy’s payout will be assessed at a later date.