The news that police have charged the owner of a backyard pool
with manslaughter after a toddler wandered into his garden and
drowned should ring alarm bells for all home owners.
It is understood to be the first case of its kind in Australia.
According to reports the owner of the house with the pool was
inside his Armidale home watching TV when unknown to him a two year
old boy wandered into his back yard.
The boy had been with his mother nearby and walked off when she
wasn't looking "for a second". Reports said somehow
the toddler got through the inadequate fencing the man had around
his dilapidated pool and fell in.
After a two month investigation police charged the owner of the
house with manslaughter saying he had not adequately fenced the
pool as he was required to do by law.
Under the Swimming Pools Act all pools built after 1 August 1990
must have a child resistant fence that complies with safety
standards. Local Councils inspect all new pools to make sure they
Pools built before 1 August 1990 don't have to have a
swimming pool fence, but access must be blocked from the street or
If someone complains about the safety of a pool to the local
council it is required to inspect it and can order the owner to
comply with the Act. Fines for not complying can be as high as
It's understood that in this tragic case neighbours had
complained about inadequate fencing around the pool, but hadn't
made a formal complaint to the council. Therefore the council
wasn't obliged to check the pool.
Police can charge a person with manslaughter over badly fenced
pools on the grounds of criminal negligence. Police will need to
prove the owner has a duty of care as owner of a pool and his
breach of that duty of care caused the toddler to drown.
In 2010 the Deputy State Coroner recommended a new law of
criminal negligence for pool deaths after eight children drowned in
2008-09. But this latest tragedy highlights the need for pool
owners to go further than the letter of the law and make their pool
as safe as possible.
For just $70 you can get your council to inspect your pool and
give you a certificate of compliance to show you have installed all
the safety devices. If you are worried about someone's pool,
make that formal complaint to the council. If you are worried about
doing that, you can get legal help. Better to be safe than
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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