Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Don’t mess with the mob

Do you remember this post? It reproduced a communication between several government experts who had been involved in the Gaul case prior to the RFI.

Three of those mentioned in the original document subsequently left the UK and were employed in a EU institution.
(A similar trajectory was given also to a high-ranking civil servant in the Department for Transport, who had been privy to the various proceedings prior to the RFI)
The author of the critical paper on the Gaul Investigation, published on our sites, was himself amongst those sucked into the EU orbit. That is until 2006, when he managed to extricate himself from that situation and, literally, run back to the UK, the EU mob squealing behind: “We need Tony Blair!”, “We need Tony Blair!”, “We need…”
The EU hub, I am informed, is not the safest place to be when you are sticking your nose into TOPICS that could embarrass the present government.

How odd!

(To be continued)

Sunday, February 25, 2007


After a suitable delay, Laurance O’Dea, the Treasury Solicitor, emailed a reply to our oft-repeated enquiry regarding the missing evidence in the Gaul investigation.

In his response, dated 23.02.2007, Mr O’Dea again sought to dispel our concerns about the soundness of the investigation, this time by assuring us that the retained experts in the RFI “were able to consider the various drawings of the vessel, including the arrangements of the duff and offal chutes before the public hearings”, that “these experts had been instructed to make their own judgments on the evidence that they were able to see” and that they were “independent and reached conclusions on the evidence available to them”.

Fair enough, so far, but what we actually wanted to know, though, was whether the evidence available to those experts included any mention of the design fault that the specialists from MCA and MAIB had discussed and agreed upon some time ago. Was this evidence contained in the bundle that ‘they were able to see’? We still haven’t got an answer to this question.

The evidence presented to the Inquiry, and accepted by the Wreck Commissioner was that the chutes were not secured and that water was able to find its way onto the factory deck” and “there was very strong evidence from the survey that the chutes were open and not secured at the time of the loss” the missive further explains.

Up to this point, we agree with the Treasury Solicitor. But then he goes on to say that “there was no evidence[1] that the chutes had been forced open by wave or water action so this was not advanced as a loss scenario by the experts

Pardon? But, we have already demonstrated that there was enough evidence, which, in legal terms, is called ‘scientific evidence’ – i.e. deduced from well-recognized scientific principles –that supported this loss scenario.

The fact that the chutes were found open at the time of the underwater survey means just that. It does not tell us when or how they had become open. And it certainly does not reveal that they had been open for some time before the incident[2]
To assume otherwise is simply jumping to conclusions.

We don’t know how the retained experts made their judgements; we fear, however, that the evidence that was placed before them was selected in a way that rather ‘counted the hits and overlooked the misses’.

[1] We would also like to point out that there was no concrete evidence to back the RFI’s conclusion that the non-return flaps had seized in the open position due to corrosion. In our post of January 30, we also showed that, in fact, there was evidence to the contrary.
(Note: the RFI relied heavily on the testimony of a former DOT surveyor who had carried out a survey on an older Gaul sister vessel. He had found that the flaps on that vessel were open and stated that they were rustbound and frozen. Had he been questioned further on this issue, the court would have learned that, whilst the flaps may have been found to be open, it was only an assumption on his part that this had been due to corrosion. The hinges that were assumed to have corroded were not in fact visible to the naked eye and, in order to establish whether corrosion had occurred or not, it would have been necessary to dismantle the flap assemblies).
[2] For further details on these issues you can revisit our previous posts and the factor tree diagram.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Loose ends

In the his opening speech to the Gaul Re-opened Formal Investigation, Nigel Meeson QC, representing the Attorney General, advised on one of the matters on which the RFI should focus:
“…the duff chute …This time a single flap lid, which we can see, is in the open position. It is difficult to see, but if one looks carefully you can see that the chute here is kept in the open position by a wire pinned across the top left-hand corner, which I am indicating now with the laser pen.”
This matter was to become one of the RFI’s principal justifications for concluding that the inner covers of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul had been secured open by the crew, a fact that was subsequently deemed to have contributed to the loss of the vessel. [1]
The image, taken during the 2002 underwater survey, that Mr Meeson referred to, purportedly shows a wire going across the inner lid.
We have also viewed this picture, as well as the rest of the video footage, and have come to a different conclusion, which we now present in this DOCUMENT.


[1] The RFI also found that the fact that the outer flaps were found open had been due to corrosion and lack of maintenance. Please see our earlier posts on this issue.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rule 42*

There is that nagging question regarding the elusive evidence of a design defect on the Gaul, that does not go away.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Dr Stephen Ladyman, has twice been quizzed about this evidence through written Parliamentary Questions (PQ).
It was to no avail. The first time he managed to prevaricate and, the second time, he referred us to his previous answer.
We believe that, the second time round, he would have had a harder time fending off the issue, had not the question been changed in transit.

When asked why they had altered the query, the Parliamentary table office advised: “the question as drafted conveyed information tantamount to the advancing of argument”, that is: “it sought to convey information and make an argument” and, therefore, contravened the PQ rules. Besides, a question cannot be asked twice; we were explained, “even if introducing greater levels of detail”.


* “Rule Forty-two […] that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now” said Alice.
“It’s the oldest rule in the book,” said the King.
“Then it ought to be Number One,” said Alice.
(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Opéra féerie


Two weeks ago, the Treasury Solicitor, Laurence O’Dea, promised us a reply to our enquiry regarding the-evidence-that-no-one-dares-mention-in-polite-company.
Having not received an answer from Mr O’Dea in the “early course”, we telephoned about the reasons for this delay. (He had had, after all, at least four months to ponder on this quandary.)

Thus, we managed to find out that what had been holding Mr O’Dea up, this time round, was the need to ‘consult the Department for Transport’ before committing himself in writing.

So, we surmised, the Treasury Solicitor’s recollections about the evidence in the Gaul investigation, which he himself had been charged to pull together during the RFI (*), depended on advice from the DfT.
Once this advice is received, he will be able to add his legal ornaments to it and send us a reply.
However, he indicated, we shouldn’t expect a clear-cut answer to our question, but simply another version of the same old song.


(*) During the Re-opened Formal Investigation, the Treasury Solicitor, who works for the Attorney General, on whose behalf the inquiry was conducted, is responsible for the collection of all evidence related to the case and for handing it over to an independent technical expert, also appointed by the Attorney General.

The independent technical expert must then insure that all relevant technical evidence is presented to the RFI.

However, the Treasury Solicitor’s main role as provider of advice and legal representation to government departments introduces, we think, a fundamental inconsistency in a process designed to establish the truth, but where the inflow of information is controlled by a party with a possible vested interest.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

8 February - 33 years

The story of the Gaul "is not just about the loss of a fishing trawler and 36 men." It is also about "the incalculable harm to people that comes from inappropriate official actions."(*)

(*)Bert Wyatt, The First Casualty, 2005

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Investigation on behalf of the Attorney General

Body language

While waiting for an answer to our question about the ‘missing evidence’ (which, between us being said, was somewhat rhetorical), we decided to address another query to justice David Steel:
What recommendations, advice or expression of expectations regarding the Gaul case did the Attorney General and the DPM, John Prescott, offer you before and during the 2004 Formal Investigation?

© Crown copyright 2004