Further to yesterday’s post.
THE mother took her eyes off her toddler for a second. But it was enough time for the two-year-old boy to wander away, fall into a swimming pool and drown.
Now, in what is believed to be a nationwide first, Philip John Cameron, 61, has been charged with manslaughter because he did not adequately fence his pool.
Mr Cameron was inside his Armidale home watching television one afternoon this year when the boy wandered through his backyard and fell in the pool.
Mr Cameron’s unkempt pool, described by one neighbour as ”a bit of a cesspit”, had a fence around it that was dilapidated.
After a two-month investigation, police charged Mr Cameron with manslaughter on Tuesday evening and ordered him to appear in an Armidale court next month. He is believed to be the first pool owner to be charged with manslaughter for not having a proper fence.
Katherine Plint, a campaigner on child drowning prevention, said it was a ”massive decision”. ”It sets a legal precedent which is what we want. Councils need to enforce laws and those owners refusing to fix their pools need to be prosecuted,” said Ms Plint, founder of the advocacy group Hannah’s Foundation.
The decision has the potential to affect tens of thousands of home owners, with a recent report by the Royal Life Saving Society finding that up to 85 per cent of home pools in some areas do not meet safety standards.
Detective Inspector Greig Stier from New England police said they were not looking to set a precedent or ”make this poor man an example”.
”We believe he’s committed an offence by not adequately fencing the pool as he’s required to do by law,” he said. ”We’ll allege the fence was there but not in a state that would stop people getting in.”
The toddler, his parents’ only child, was playing with his mother in their front yard about 4pm on May 14 when he wandered off.
Ms Plint, who has been involved in the investigation, said the mother looked away for ”a matter of seconds”.
The mother frantically searched for the boy but a neighbour found him in Mr Cameron’s pool.
Pool owners are required by law to erect and maintain adequate fencing.
Neighbours had apparently complained about Mr Cameron’s fence. However, the general manager of Armidale Dumaresq Council, Shane Burns, said a formal complaint was never received so the council was never obliged to check the fence. They were only required to when the pool was built.
The case has sparked debate over pool laws in NSW, which are under review, and parents’ responsibility for their child.
Mr Cameron’s granddaughter posted on Facebook that it ”sure wasn’t his responsibility to keep watch for a little boy”.
Neither Mr Cameron nor the boy’s parents returned the Herald‘s calls.