Pond death toddler's parents to repay compensation

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The parents of a toddler who drowned in a pond at a holiday park were today ordered to repay their compensation award.

Matthew Marsden was two-years-old when he was found by his parents face down in 18 inches of water at Greenacres Holiday Park, near Portmadog, Wales.

Tracey and Philip Marsden won £25,000 compensation after suing the owners of the park, Bourne Leisure, after the tragedy in 2004.

But today three judges at the Court of Appeal quashed the decision of a judge at Wrexham County Court and ordered the parents to repay the compensation money and the £15,000 they received for their legal costs.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, in a judgment handed down today, said: "This was a tragic case and Matthew's death has been understandably devastating for his parents.

"But accidents may and do happen to young children without anyone being at fault."

Lord Justice Moses said: "Nothing this court can say can adequately measure the suffering of two responsible, attentive and caring parents."

But he said there was no foundation for the finding of a breach of duty on the part of the holiday park owners.

"Short of keeping hold of the two children at all times when outside the caravan, there is nothing more the Marsdens could do.

"Small children can disappear in a moment. Holiday sites will almost inevitably contain sources of danger to small unaccompanied children."

He allowed the appeal by the holiday company and said the Marsdens must now pay the costs of the case and "reimburse" the award together with £15,000 they received for their legal costs.

The parents, from Buckley, Flintshire, began a frantic search after discovering Matthew and his brother, Alex, who was 16 months old at the time, were missing.

Father Philip, an IT manager, suffered nervous shock and psychological trauma after discovering his son's body.

He was awarded the damages after the county court judge had rejected claims that the pond was "a trap for the unwary" but said the company should have specifically warned holidaymakers of the potential hazard posed.

An inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death.