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Passive lover cleared over Geneva drowning

Meritxell Mir · 10 Oct 2011, 12:44

Published: 10 Oct 2011 15:51 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Oct 2011 12:44 GMT+02:00

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A Swiss court has cleared a man of wrongdoing after he failed to jump into the water to save his date from drowning in Lake Geneva.

The man had met the woman just 18 hours prior to her death. Their paths crossed during a major city festival and they ended up spending the night together. On July 25th 2010, after consuming large amounts of alcohol, the woman jumped into the water, drowning less than two metres from the shore.
Instead of jumping in the lake to rescue her, the 34-year-old French national called the emergency services. By the time help arrived, it was already too late. The 30-year-old woman fell into a coma and died in hospital three weeks later.

The family of the victim accused the Frenchman of negligent homicide due to his failure to act, pointing out that the woman had recently left a clinic where she was treated for drug and alcohol dependency.

The defendant claimed he could not have known the extent of the risk she was taking, an argument that was accepted by the judge. The defendant could have faced up to three years in prison if found guilty.
“It was she who insisted she wanted to go in the water […] He did not create any risk for her,” the magistrate said in an August ruling, La Tribune de Genève reported.

But her family appealed the decision. In its recent ruling, the Geneva court said the man was innocent because Swiss law does not make it mandatory to aid someone in danger.

The defendant said in August that he did not think he would have managed to take the woman out of the water given the fact that he suffered from hip pains, and that he was 15 centimetres shorter than the victim, who was 1.70 metres (5'7'') tall.
“It is a fair ruling because [the] criminal code does not call for heroism or self-sacrifice,” the man’s lawyer, Nicolas Capt, told newspaper Le Matin.
Nobody jumped in to save the woman despite the fact that the events took place at around 8pm, a time when the lake shore is full of people in the summer. Emergency services arrived 22 minutes after the man's first call, a delay that was fatal for the woman.
The victim’s family may appeal the decision to the Federal Supreme Court.

Meritxell Mir (news@thelocal.ch)

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