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LGA CONCERN AT IMPLICATIONS OF LEEDS SCHOOL TRIP DEATHS CASE

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The impending prosecution of Leeds City Council over the death of two pupils on a school trip raises 'disturbing qu...
The impending prosecution of Leeds City Council over the death of two pupils on a school trip raises 'disturbing questions', according to Local Government Association head of education Neil Fletcher.

He said the drive to devolve school management had blurred lines of responsibility.

Labour has vigorously pursued policies that hand the running of schools to governors and head teachers and encourage the involvement of private companies in failing schools.

Mr Fletcher said: 'Much government legislation since 1998 has regarded the delegation of responsibility for school management.

'The Leeds case raises some disturbing questions. There is the beginning of quite a significant contradiction in terms of areas of responsibility.'

The Health & Safety Executive is prosecuting Leeds following the death of Rochelle Cauvet, 14, and Hannah Black, 13, during a school river walk in October 2000.

Both girls were on a residential week at Stainforth Beck in North Yorkshire organised by Royds school in Oulton, Leeds, when they were swept away by a river during a walk.

The council is being sued for allegedly breaking the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 on two counts. The Magistrates' Court can fine the council a maximum£25,000

if it is found guilty, although it could be passed on to a Crown Court where the fine is unlimited.

The HSE stressed the case cannot lead to imprisonment and council officers and councillors are not being held individually responsible.

A council spokeswoman said: 'At present, we are considering the implications of this action by the HSE and will take appropriate legal measures.'

The executive has only ever had two successful prosecutions after incidents involving school children.

A preliminary court date has been set for 9 September at Leeds magistrates' court.

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