Backyard pool deaths should bring criminal charges, Queensland coroner says

A Queensland coroner who investigated the drowning of a young boy after a pool fence gate was deliberately propped open wants the State Government to consider introducing new criminal laws.

Four year old William Corben drowned while swimming in his neighbour’s pool on the Gold Coast in early 2015. He died in March 2015 when his life support system was turned off.

A recent inquest has found that his death was preventable.

In handing down his findings, deputy coroner John Lock said the pool gate had been propped open, which enabled the child to re-enter the pool unnoticed and drown. He said propping open pool gates was a bad practice and needed to be stopped.

A safety bracket that prevented the opening of a screen door from a bedroom to the pool area had also been removed after an inspection of the property in July 2014, the coroner heard.

Outside court, William’s mother said the family wanted his death investigated to raise awareness of the dangers surrounding deliberate breaches to pool safety barriers.

The family’s lawyer Jason Jacobson, said there was a message that needed to be thought about by all pool owners. “These barriers, these gates are there for a reason and if there’s a preventable death on your property that is caused by your action or inaction, there may also be consequences,” he said.

“We hope that people keep their gates shut and they keep the supervision up and these toddlers will stop drowning.”

Katherine Plint, the chief executive of Hannah’s Foundation, an organisation that raises awareness of drowning prevention and support services, said if people were found to have propped their pool gate open and a child dies, that person should be charged with manslaughter.