Tamworth Step-Dad Jailed For 5 Years After 5-Year-Old Drowns At Waterpark
20 December 2017, 15:17
The stepfather of five-year-old Charlie Dunn who drowned at a water park has been jailed for more than seven years.
Paul Smith, 36, was heard swearing and blaming others after Charlie Dunn, who could not swim and was on the child protection register, went missing while unsupervised at Bosworth Water Park in Leicestershire in July last year.
High Court judge Mrs Justice Jefford sentenced Smith to five years and two months for Charlie's manslaughter with a consecutive two-year term for threatening to petrol-bomb the home of a witness and a further four months for driving while disqualified.
Charlie's mother, Lynsey Dunn, 28, was given an eight-month suspended jail term after admitting neglecting Charlie in a separate incident in 2015 when a neighbour prevented the then four-year-old from driving a toy car on to a main road.
Smith, from Tamworth in Staffordshire, initially denied any wrongdoing in relation to the death of Charlie but pleaded guilty earlier this month to unlawful killing on the grounds of gross negligence.
A jury at Birmingham Crown Court was told other children pulled Charlie from a lagoon after Smith was allegedly seen smoking and heard saying: "For f***'s sake, we're ready to go. I don't know where he f****** is."
The court heard Charlie was allowed to "fend for himself" in a pool which had signs warning parents that youngsters must be supervised.
Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Jefford said: "I do not doubt that Lynsey Dunn and Paul Smith had genuine love and affection for Charlie."
Rejecting Smith's assertions that he had been an "impeccable" stepfather, the judge told him: "Nothing could be further from the truth.
"One father (in the lake at the park) had to explain to another that Charlie was not his son.
"You were completely indifferent to Charlie's whereabouts and safety.
"This was not a case in which there was an isolated and momentary lapse in care and supervision."
The judge said of the children aged 10, 11 and 12 who found Charlie and pulled him from the water at least 20 minutes after he was last seen: "This must have been a horrific experience for them and I take this opportunity to praise the care that these young boys showed for Charlie."
During her sentencing remarks, the High Court judge said Smith appeared to have "simply given no thought" to Charlie's safety.
Prior to sentence, it emerged that Charlie was made the subject of a social services child protection plan in November 2012.
Smith, who has 10 previous convictions for 28 crimes, was "a person of interest" for the authorities because of the nature of his first offence.
Social services are known to have become involved with Charlie, whose death is being examined by a serious case review, when he was 14 months old.
The court heard Staffordshire County Council had noted "poor home conditions, a lack of food and poor hygiene" before putting in place a child protection plan.
Smith "had a status of being a risk to children" but there was no evidence of Charlie having come to harm when the plan was put in place, prosecutor Mary Prior QC said.
Addressing the judge before sentence, Mrs Prior told the court Dunn was of "limited intellect" and had no previous convictions.
The prosecutor said of Smith: "He took the view that Charlie, aged five, could fend for himself in among 1,000 people, in the water.
"When he was discovered missing, his starting point was to shout and to swear and to blame anyone and everyone but himself.
"This arrogant and self-centred man ignored warnings and Charlie paid the ultimate price for that arrogance."
Staffordshire councillor Mark Sutton, cabinet member for children and young people, said in a statement: "This was an incredibly sad case and our sympathies are with Charlie's wider family today.
"A serious case review is currently being conducted to examine what lessons may be learned by partners to help prevent such a tragic event happening again."