Toddler Who Drowned In Garden While Mother Was On Facebook Gets Justice

Joshua Barnett died at the age of 2-years-old when he fell into a garden pond at the back of his home and drowned. The toddler passed away on March 17, 2014 after attempts by medical officers to revive the unconscious boy were unsuccessful. His mother, Claire Barnett, initially gave a variety of stories about what she was doing while her son drowned, but was found to have been on Facebook and has now pleaded guilty to four charges of neglect.

Claire Barnett, 31, has been deemed an unfit parent by the Judge who sentenced her. Investigations revealed that during the time frame that young Joshua drowned, his mother was uploading two pictures to Facebook and had accepted a cellphone call from her boyfriend. That lack of supervision for her children has gotten the mother sentenced to five years in jail. Joshua’s home in East Yorkshire, which had a 13-meter-long ornamental fish pond on its premises,was the scene of the crime.


Further evidence against Barnett surfaced when family members and friends advised that they had warned the mother of the dangers of the open pond in her backyard when she first moved in. The advice to either cover the pond or fence off the area was ignored and the result was the tragic death of her youngest son.

The Telegraph reported that the father of Joshua said the family is devastated, and the brother who was with Joshua on the day he drowned had to receive counseling. The presiding judge, Jeremy Richardson, had some stern words to deliver to Claire Barnett about her Facebook usage while Joshua drowned.

“Your son died due to your neglectful conduct. You will have to live with that for the remainder of your life. For a parent to behave as you did, repeatedly, amounts to consistently bad parenting. I trust that you will never be allowed to have further unsupervised contact to any child. If you should have any further children, they will almost certainly be removed from you.”

The BBC report listed the position stated by the defense attorney, named Timothy Roberts, in the neglect case for Claire Barnett. He argued that the mother had simply become distracted during the period that Joshua drowned, saying it was a mistake that could have happened to any parent. He stated that Claire was in the midst of getting the family dog ready to go on a walk when she became distracted by a comment on her Facebook page, rather than it being a case of her being on Facebook initially.

Now, as the story of how Joshua Barnett drowned is spreading across the same social media platform Claire was using, many reading about the news are expressing their anger at the toddler’s neglect and echo a belief that jail for Claire Barnett is justice.

Joshua was one of Claire Barnett’s four children and unfortunately this was not the first incident of neglect that the toddler had been exposed to. At a previous residence, social services had been called on Claire after she let her children run unsupervised through the streets and two of the children were almost hit by a car. The prosecuting lawyer, Peter Moulson, QC, brought the incident to light to prove that Claire Barnett had a history of neglect and needed to be held accountable. The 2013 visit by social services also found that the children had not been wearing any shoes, were inadequately clothed and were often unsupervised. While it was Joshua’s mother who pulled him from the pond it is unknown how long he was in the water. CPR attempts by Barnett while she waited for an ambulance were ineffective and the toddler later died at hospital.

Claire Barnett was stated to be an “appalling parent” and the evidence submitted in court left her with very little choice but to plead guilty and take the jail time, though that was not her initial response. Judge Richardson had no faith in the mother and added that she should not be trusted.

“You pose very serious risks to any child for whom you have responsibility.”

[Photo by Artur Debat/Getty Images]