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Opinion: City of Rotterdam - unsafe convictions?

Opinion: City of Rotterdam - unsafe convictions?
The criminalisation of two mariners in the case of collision involving the City of Rotterdam and the Primula Seaways is now reliably seen to have occurred after pleas of  guilt which were put into Court “for personal reasons”. 

This revelation (it is no less) indicates that matters other than guilt were considered before the pleas were entered, thus giving a false impression as to justice founded on fact and law. It is no exaggeration to say that, in such circumstances, neither conviction is safe.

Both defendants were near to retirement age and it is natural that each one should wish to release himself from the charges with the minimum of inconvenience, even if it might lead to a suspended prison sentence, which was the actual result. If these two men had not each been almost at retirement age, the prison sentences (even when suspended) would no doubt have been highly prejudicial to any advancement in (or continuation of) their respective professional careers.  

The criminalisation and suspended term of imprisonment imposed upon each of these two senior mariners, both previously held in high esteem and lacking (even now) any shred of wilful mischief, creates a highly dangerous precedent for all younger mariners who still have the bulk of their careers ahead of them.

Of no less concern is the matter of the MAIB report which, in its express terms, would have been helpful to both defendants, even, possibly, allowing the pilot a complete defence. Although the Merchant Shipping (Accident and Reporting) Regulations prevent the use of an MAIB report in Court, they also permit an exception to that prevention by way of application to the Court. There is no indication that any application was made to the Court to allow the disclosure of the report and, potentially, a sustainable defence in reliance on  the authority of the wisdom and knowledge of the MAIB.

Thus, any impropriety is much  exacerbated and clearly so.  In any event, the prosecution has not proved its case, nor has it been required to do so, and the conviction of each Defendant to date has been a walkover for the prosecuting body.

As to the conduct of  the defence teams, in the case of the pilot this was funded by the harbour authority, against whom no charges were pressed. The man who pays the piper calls the tune. Other conclusions might well be drawn and all and any conclusions  are invited. There was no trial of this matter; ergo there was no fair trial.  In consideration of younger pilots, authorised by harbour authorities under express statutory provision  for public protection and with potentially long careers and commitments ahead of them, the consequences of this case give cause only for the most serious concern.  It would appear that very little legal protection of any kind has been addressed. Still less has any legal protection been put to the test.  The treatment meted out to these two elderly mariners  by the judicial system does nothing whatsoever  to attract young persons to enter the vital  public maritime profession.

For the above reasons the two convictions, even though they are admitted from the mouths of the two elderly mariners, are profoundly unsafe.

Barrie Youde
19 November 2017

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