Leicester

West Gate School staff sentenced over near drowning

Marilyn Smith and Eileen Coull outside court
Image caption The judge said Eileen Coull (front in glasses) and Marilyn Smith (in glasses) had to live with their guilt

Two teaching assistants at special school have been sentenced after a pupil almost drowned in a sensory pool.

Sam Sebastian, 18, suffered a cardiac arrest and was given the last rites after becoming submerged at West Gate School, in Leicester, in January 2016.

Marilyn Smith, 62, and Eileen Coull, 64, admitted failing to take reasonable care of a disabled pupil.

Giving 12-month conditional discharges, the judge said their sense of guilt would stay for the rest of their lives.

Leicester Crown Court heard Sam, who is profoundly disabled, slipped from a flotation ring and was submerged for 90 seconds while staff were getting another pupil into the pool.

Smith from Ratby, Leicestershire, and Coull, from Leicester, originally faced a more serious charge of wilful neglect, but the prosecution accepted the alternative health and safety breach.

Both have since retired.

Judge Nicholas Dean criticised West Gate School, saying systems in place at the time were "wholly inadequate".

In response the school said a number of changes had been made, with more life guards and allocated members of staff.

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