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CRIME

French court acquits four over death of British schoolgirl

A French court on Wednesday acquitted three English teachers and a lifeguard accused over the 2015 drowning of a 12-year-old British schoolgirl in France.

French court acquits four over death of British schoolgirl
The lac de la Triouzoune, where the British schoolgirl drowned. Photo: Google street view

Jessica Lawson drowned in July 2015 after a swim in a lake with 23 other British children on a school trip. She died after the pontoon they were playing on capsized near Limoges in southwest central France.

The trial began Tuesday in nearby Tulle, attended by the child’s parents.

The suspects including the teachers from Hull, northeast England, and the lifeguard on duty at the time were charged with manslaughter caused by a “deliberate breach of safety or caution”.

The judges said on Wednesday there were too many elements in the case that were unclear including exactly when the child disappeared in the water.

The court also could not establish a link between the pontoon overturning and the schoolgirl’s death.

The local authority was also cleared of any role in the death.

It was the lifeguard who had found the missing child at the bottom of the lake (lac de la Triouzoune) on July 21 and she was airlifted to hospital. She died the next day.

The public prosecutor had requested a suspended sentence of three years for the teachers and the same for the lifeguard, who was 21 years old at the time, as well as a lifetime ban on doing similar work.

The suspects denied that they had failed to provide proper surveillance.

A lawyer for the schoolgirl’s family said they hoped the public prosecutor would appeal the court’s decision, pointing to many issues.

“A young girl of 12 disappeared, the pontoon was dangerous and there was an obvious lack of surveillance. Another court must hear this,” lawyer Eloi Chan told AFP.

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CRIME

French Holocaust denier rejects extradition move from Scotland

A prominent French Holocaust denier, who fled the country after being convicted under anti-Nazi laws, does not consent to be extradited to France, an Edinburgh court heard on Thursday.

French Holocaust denier rejects extradition move from Scotland

Vincent Reynouard, 53, who was excused from attending his preliminary extradition hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, was arrested in the fishing town of Anstruther, just north of the Scottish capital, in November.

“Mr Reynouard does not consent to extradition to France,” his lawyer, who asked not to be named, told the court.

“I was instructed at about 6pm last night and I do require some time to consider the matter.

“There is a matter that is, I think, of legal significance that I need more time to consider.”

Sheriff Norman McFadyen agreed to continue the case until January 12th. A full extradition hearing is due to take place in February.

Reynouard had reportedly been living in Anstruther under a false name.

He had been sought by France’s central office for combating crimes against humanity, known by its initials OCLCH.

Holocaust denial has been a criminal offence in France since 1990, and Reynouard has been convicted on numerous occasions.

As a student in 1991, he was convicted for distributing revisionist literature.

In 2001, he was suspended as a school maths teacher for printing and distributing Holocaust-denying pamphlets and setting homework involving counting concentration camp victims.

In 2007, while working as a chemical engineer, Reynouard was sentenced to one year in prison and fined €10,000 for Holocaust denial after writing a pamphlet claiming the death of six million Jews during World War II was “impossible”.

He was handed a four-month prison sentence in France in November 2020 and a further six-month term in January 2021 concerning a series of anti-Semitic posts on social media.

In August 2020, a memorial in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the site of the worst Nazi atrocity in France, was defaced with slogans including the words “Reynouard is right”.

He had questioned the massacre in several videos posted online. Reynouard first appeared in court in Scotland after his arrest last month and remains in custody.

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