Norfolk County Council cleared of health and safety breaches over death of boy at Whitlingham Broad, near Norwich

Norfolk County Council has today been cleared of any health and safety breaches in relation to the death of a 15-year-old boy at Whitlingham Broad, near Norwich.

Zabiullah Assadi, known as Zabi, from Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire, drowned in the Little Broad while on a trip to the park as part of a group of ten adults and children on August 17, 2008.

At the time of Zabi's death, members of the public were permitted to swim in the Little Broad. Recently a fence has been put up to prevent this.

The Health and Safety Executive, prosecuting, had claimed the authority was in breach of its duty from September 2004 to August 2008 when the accident occurred.

But Norfolk County Council had denied allegations that inadequate safety measures were in place.

The court had heard how Zabi, together with his cousin, Mustraza Vafai, went swimming in the water. The pair got into difficulties when they were about 10 to 15 metres away from the shore, the court heard.

Family friend Ali Rezai rushed into the water and managed to save Mirtaza but when he returned to try to rescue Zabi, the boy was already submerged.

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After a two-hour rescue bid by Whitlingham Park staff and emergency services, Zabi's body was recovered by a diver who found him three metres underwater, trapped in weeds.

Lisa Christensen, director of children's services, said today: 'In any situation it is impossible to prevent all risk. However, we believed we had taken reasonable and practicable steps to protect the public. This is always our first priority and is what the law requires. The jury has also shared this view in reaching today's verdict.

'Once again I would like to offer my condolences to Zabiullah's family at what must be a very difficult time.'

She also said outside the court that the tragedy had affected the dedicated council staff who worked at Whitlingham.

The council will now be reviewing the situation alongside HSE.

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said: 'HSE took the decision to prosecute Norfolk County Council following a thorough investigation into what caused Zabi Assadi to drown at Whitlingham Country Park.

'We will always seek to bring cases to court where it is believed there have been breaches of the law and it is in the public interest - as detailed in our published enforcement strategy.'

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