Death on Dartmoor

The greatest challenge an advocate can have is to represent a parent who has lost a child.

Charlotte Shaw was only 14 years of age when she drowned on a Ten Tors school training expedition on 4th March 2007. It was alleged that her school was negligent in allowing her and other children to walk unaccompanied to a way point at Watern Tor in atrocious weather conditions. Ultimately the Court of Appeal found that whilst a teacher was negligent in not being able to navigate to the Tor to meet the children, it was speculative as to what would have happened had she arrived there and that in the circumstances a sufficient causal link between her absence and Charlotte’s death could not be established. Jennifer Wilkin-Shaw v Christopher Fuller and Kingsley School Bideford Trustee Co Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 410

This action was pursued on behalf of Charlotte’s mother, Jennifer, over the course of 4 years and, although ultimately unsuccessful, in every respect it was both justified and necessary to ascertain the truth for Jennifer. She has given me permission to set out part of the letter she wrote to me afterwards:


For nearly four years you have walked my path with me.

You have with order and diligence and elegance, uncovered every

fact, every truth, that seemed to be buried deep.


You have cried and laughed with me and your steadfastness has astonished me.

Indeed there have been times when I have heard Charlotte say,’ when I grow up

I want to be a barrister like Michael Powers, although I definitely won’t

wear red in an interview’..


You have validated us and our fight.

I have watched you for weeks and months and years dotting and crossing

and aligning, without remuneration to you. I have seen the calibre of person that you are.


You have enabled a true and noble fight to occur.

You have brought to account.

You have cleansed.

You have achieved justice for Charlotte and me.


And for that,

I thank you with all my heart.

As does Charlotte from somewhere.