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Girl’s family ‘stand proud and united’ after teachers’ not guilty verdicts

The 12-year-old’s mother posted a tribute to her daughter on Facebook on Thursday.

06 October 2022

The mother of Jessica Lawson has said her family “stand proud and united” after three teachers were cleared of the equivalent of manslaughter by gross negligence in a French court.

Paying tribute to her daughter on Facebook, Brenda Lawson said the 12-year-old is “my baby girl”, adding: “No court in any land can take that away from me… ever.”

Jessica died after a pontoon capsized in a lake near the city of Limoges while she was on a school trip in July 2015.

Jessica Lawson court case
Chantelle Lewis was cleared of any wrongdoing (Josh Payne/PA)

At the Palais de Justice in the French town of Tulle on Wednesday, Steven Layne, Chantelle Lewis and Daisy Stathers were all cleared of any wrongdoing.

The lifeguard on duty at the time, Leo Lemaire, and the local authority in the town of Liginiac were also found not guilty.

The family did not give any immediate reaction to the verdicts, but writing on the Jessica Lawson Foundation Facebook page on Thursday, Mrs Lawson said: “No win, no lose, no draw. Enough is enough.

“We, as a family stand proud & remain united.

“A closeness borne from our tragedy. A closeness that continues to gain its strength from our guiding light.

“Her name is and continues to be Jessica Lawson.”

Jessica Lawson court case
Steven Layne was in charge of the school trip in 2015 (Josh Payne/PA)

Mrs Lawson continued: “Over the past two days the world media has ‘said her name’.

“And, that for our family is ok.

“Unconditional love is a powerful thing. Immeasurable.

“I am Brenda Lawson, I am Jessica’s mum. She is my baby girl.

“No court in any land can take that away from me… ever.”

Jessica Lawson court case
Daisy Stathers became emotional after not guilty verdicts were returned (Josh Payne/PA)

In her judgment, the head of jurisdiction in Tulle, Marie-Sophie Waguette, said the three teachers had not “at any moment failed to comply with their requirement to monitor the activity”.

Ms Waguette told the court there was “no evidence to show that they were negligent”.

The trial heard how Ms Lewis “started to panic” during the incident and “asked ‘where’s Jess’?’”

Her colleague, Ms Stathers, said she also became “increasingly panicked” after realising Jessica was missing, adding: “But there were 23 other students we were trying to get out (of the water) so I was trying to stay calm.”

The teacher who was in charge of the trip, Mr Layne, told the court he thought the pontoon was a safety feature.

Mr Layne was quizzed about Jessica’s death and said there was not “any sort of distress” from students or the lifeguard during the incident.

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