In July of last year, five-year-old Charlie Dunn drowned in a lake and pulled out by other children. The trial has now commenced, where the prosecution alleges that Charlie died because he was not supervised by any adult.
Mother Lynsey Dunn, 28, and stepdad Paul Smith, 36, were accused of five child cruelty offences between 2012 and 2016. But Charlie’s incident is the only one resulting in a death.
Charlie could not swim and was allowed to “go off by himself” in the 1.4-metre deep lake in a park without arm-bands. The parents stood by the boot of their car and apparently only saw Charlie “for an odd minute” during the two-hour period when he returned to the car to eat or drink. Smith was seen smoking and then saying “we’re ready to go. I don’t know where he f—— is”.
Dunn told the police that she thought Charlie would tell her if he went into the water, as he was “terrified” of it. Smith claimed that he watched the boy from a distance and that he could have leaped across to get him if there had been a problem.
“This case is not about parents turning their back for a minute whilst a tragedy occurs. 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.”
Charlie’s body was pulled out of the lake by three 10 and 11-year-old boys, “who felt him underneath their feet”. Initially, they thought Charlie was just a child “messing around”. Off-duty paramedics and off-duty police officers did their best to save him but were unsuccessful.
In summer 2015, a neighbour prevented the unsupervised toddler from driving his toy care on a main road. About two months before Charlie’s death, a woman told the defendants “in no uncertain terms that she was not happy that the defendants were not supervising Charlie near to the water”. The parents replied that Charlie “would be all right”.
The couple is being charged with manslaughter by gross negligence and child cruelty. Both are denying that they are the cause of death.