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Stepfather guilty over death of boy, five, at water park

Paul Smith convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence after Charlie Dunn's drowning.

Charlie Dunn drowned due to stepfather Paul Smith's negligence.
Charlie Dunn drowned due to stepfather Paul Smith's negligence. Family handout

The stepfather of a child found drowned in a pool at a water park today pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence.

Paul Smith, 36, had denied any wrong-doing in relation to the death of five-year-old Charlie Dunn but changed his plea part-way through the Birmingham Crown Court trial.

Charlie's mother, Lynsey Dunn, 28, also admitted a charge of neglect in connection with her son after a separate incident between July 2014 and July 2016, in which she failed to supervise him when Charlie was found in a pedal car next to a busy road.

Prosecutor Mary Prior QC said Smith and Dunn had shown "ingrained and entrenched indifference" over Charlie's death.

She added: "This case is not about parents turning their back for a minute whilst a tragedy occurs.

"We don't prosecute parents for unavoidable tragedies nor do we expect perfection in parenting.

"This is a gross failure to supervise not for seconds, and not for a few minutes, but for protracted periods of time in circumstances where the child was exposed to danger."

The jury had heard how a group of 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."

Jurors heard Charlie, from Tamworth, Staffordshire, was found in a 1.4-metre deep lagoon at Bosworth Water Park in Leicestershire in July last year.

It can also be reported for the first time that Smith admitted witness intimidation in connection with another incident relating to Charlie, prior to the trial.

Mother Lynsey Dunn, 28, also admitted a charge of neglect.
Mother Lynsey Dunn, 28, also admitted a charge of neglect. PA

Dunn also pleaded guilty to a second charge of neglect in relation to another youngster, who cannot be named, after an incident in the summer of 2015.

Mrs Justice Nerys Jefford said: "I will sentence both defendants on December 20."

She then told the jury: "This system does not work without juries, and people like you.

"You are now free to go, your time as jurors is over. You have my thanks."

Following the guilty pleas, the prosecution said it would not continue the case against Dunn for manslaughter.

Bosworth Water Park in Leicestershire.
Bosworth Water Park in Leicestershire. Google Maps

After the hearing Dunn, who was granted bail, turned to Smith in the dock and said "call me" before blowing him a kiss as he was led down the steps of the dock by security officers.

After the hearing, Detective Inspector Nikki McLatchie, the deputy senior investigating officer from Leicestershire Police, said: "There were up to 1,000 people at the park that day, people who we knew would be able to provide us with the vital information to help our investigation into what happened to Charlie.

"Witness testimony showed that Charlie was left alone on numerous occasions, despite him not being able to swim.

"Smith was looking after Charlie at the park, and his failure as a parent came with the most tragic consequences and ultimately led to his death.

"There were hundreds of people at the park that day, many of whom came to Charlie's aid, and who were understandably shaken by what happened.

"I would like to thank all those who came forward to help with our investigation, and while it won't bring Charlie back, hopefully the guilty plea will bring some comfort to all those who knew him."

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