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Three lifeguards deny charges relating to death of swimmer at Armagh Leisure Centre

Chris Rogers from Armagh

Three lifeguards accused of offences relating to the death of a swimmer at Armagh’s Orchard Leisure Centre more than six years ago have today (Thursday) pleaded not guilty.

William Holden, (25), of Unshinagh Lane, Portadown; James Monaghan, (24), of Folly Lane, Armagh; and Cathal Peter Forrest-McVeigh, (33), of Dunamony Road, Dungannon, all appeared for arraignment at Newry Crown Court.

The defendants – stood side-by-side in the dock – each entered not guilty pleas to the single charge of being an employee in breach of duty to others.

The offences are alleged to have occurred on April 7, 2017, when following an incident in the swimming pool, 20-year-old Armagh man Christopher Rogers passed away in hospital.

Prosecutor Geraldine McCullough informed the court that a trial date of September 6 had been identified and that there has been an agreement on 23 of the 30 witnesses in the case.

Ms McCullough estimated that the trial would last between seven and 10 days, before pointing out that the expert report in the case “is currently to be reconsidered” as there are “some possible corrections to be made to it”.

McVeigh’s defence counsel contended that the trial length was “probably more likely to take in the region of three weeks”.

He added: “In terms of the expert evidence, which will be very much at the heart of the case, there are some difficulties being encountered on behalf of the defence in terms of securing the services of appropriate experts.

“There is a very limited scope, in terms of expertise of this nature, and indeed, given the very specific nature of the case, it’s felt that the defence may be required to go outside the UK in order to secure a suitably qualified expert to comment on the very particular issues in this case.”

He advised that a date later in the year might be more appropriate “given some of the issues that we’re likely to encounter”.

Holden’s defence counsel, in agreeing that the September 6 date “might be a bit unrealistic”, added: “We envisage the necessity of attending at the swimming pool. The regime of monitoring of the pool has now changed since the index incident, so we will be requiring the monitoring system that was in place on that occasion to be reconfigured. That can be done but I’m just giving that as an illustration of some of the difficulties that may be encountered in having expert reports ready to go by September.”

His Honour Judge Gordon Kerr KC noted that the September 6 date will be maintained until it is “obvious that the date cannot be met”.

The case will be reviewed on May 18.

The defendants were released on continuing bail.

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