Sunday, December 13, 2009
Yes, £3 million is a significant amount, but it was the government alone who chose to spend this sum and what to spend it on. The new model-testing performed in Holland, for instance, was not really necessary except to bolster the government’s proposition that it was a big wave rather than poor design that had been responsible for the vessel’s loss (comprehensive model tests had already been carried out in the late seventies, which indicated that poor stability on the Trident could have led to her capsize).
This blatant bullying of the Trident widows shows the level that our government officials will sink to in order to maintain the myth that there is no gain in pursuing justice and to avoid, perhaps, creating a point of reference for other similarly contentious inquiries.
In fact, this is not really the case. In 1975, at the end of the first formal investigation, and 26 years before the wreck of the Trident was discovered, the Court felt confident enough to be able to conclude:
“The Court considers it probable that deficient stability in her design contributed to her foundering.”
Since then, the only new thing that has emerged is the evidence from the underwater survey of the wreck, which appears to attach even more weight to that probability.
Raising the vessel from the seabed may (depending on the state of the wreckage) provide the experts with some additional information that would improve the accuracy of their stability calculations. However, this is uncertain, and it may well be that, at the end of the day, the information already available from the sister vessel (and from the inclining test carried out on the Trident in Middlesbrough) provides the most realistic basis for a suitable assessment of the Trident’s stability.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
So what are these inquiries for?
Like the investigations into maritime accidents (in which we have a greater interest), the search for the truth about the Iraq war has been a process in need of several re-iterations  - each of them having left the public dissatisfied.
Confronted with the horrid necessity of having to satisfy people’s curiosity and diffuse various social tensions, governments are not inimical to the idea of setting up public inquiries, but, if there is any risk of political humiliation, they make sure that these affairs will not seek out the truth in earnest or learn any lessons from it – except, perhaps, on how to circumvent the facts more effectively next time around.
As it can be said about many other similar undertakings before it, the Chilcot inquiry could have easily not existed . Since many in the political Establishment know only too well what really happened and who is to blame and why, it would have been a lot easier (and cheaper) if the truth had been publicly revealed, without too much ceremony and vacillation, and the appropriate corrective/retributive actions had then been taken as required.
But discovering the truth is not what a public inquiry is about. Is it? A public inquiry, nowadays, is more like a communal bath – a public place of sensual abandonment and ritual lustration - where the interested parties, hiding their nudity from the public behind clouds of steam and odorous suds, soak together in opulent lather, scrubbing each other’s backs. Its purpose is simply to make them appear purer in the end, and leave them more relaxed - and smelling of flowers.
 See the Hutton inquiry and the Butler review
 Just as the MV Derbyshire, FV Gaul and FV Trident opened and re-opened formal investigations
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This particular size and type of trawler had a proven reputation for being seaworthy in all weather conditions, and in this respect we would hope that, ultimately, the Court of inquiry will be able to identify those critical differences on Trident which set her apart from the rest of the Scottish fleet and which caused her to capsize and founder in relatively moderate sea conditions.
The Trident was only 18 months old at the time of her loss.
Judging by the latest press reports on the debate about Trident’s stability, it seems that currently, there is some confusion within the Court as to what ‘stability’ actually means in the context of a fishing trawler and on what stability standards should normally apply. There also seems to be some confusion as to how a fishing vessel’s stability is actually measured and assessed, and, additionally, the terms ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ stability appear to have the Court’s official experts and Counsel talking at cross purposes.
In recent days it has been reported:
“Sheriff Principal Sir Stephen Young, who is overseeing the inquest, ordered him [the counsel for the families] to compile a second document restating his case.
The first order was served on Monday, when the court ruled that Mr Anderson’s arguments on static stability, dynamic stability and stability curves – all of which must be in check for a boat to remain upright – were not clear.” (Aberdeen Press and Journal 18 November 2009)
“The inquiry heard yesterday that an incline test on the Trident would not have revealed if she was at risk of capsizing.
Richard Anderson, representing some of the families, said it is their belief that the test, which is used to measure the stability of a boat in calm conditions, would have uncovered problems with the Trident’s stability.
William Boyd, a director of TMC Marine Consultants, told the inquiry the test “has no relevance” when a boat is out at sea. […] “An incline test is a necessary and useful test, but in predicting what external forces are going to arise at sea it has no relevance.” (Aberdeen Press and Journal 17 November 2009)
A MARINE expert insisted a test of a Peterhead-registered trawler which sank would not have proven whether it was sea-worthy. […] Mr Boyd said a test on the Trident would have been “non applicable” because it would have been carried out in calm waters. (Aberdeen Evening Express 17 November 2009)
“Master mariner Graeme Bowles said a static test on the boat would not have correctly assessed her stability when at sea, and that a dynamic stability test was usually done to check this. […] The inquiry had previously heard that an inclining test, usually done when the boat is static, had not been carried out. It examines the vertical centre of gravity and its effect on a vessel’s stability. […] When asked by Ailsa Wilson, QC for the advocate general, to explain the difference between static and dynamic tests, Mr Bowles said: 'Dynamic takes into account everything to do with the ship’s behaviour when she is at sea.' The test takes into account the risk of capsizing and the threat posed by violent winds and waves”. (Aberdeen Press and Journal 28 October 2009)
Perhaps we should consider the possibility that the personnel making up this ‘expert panel’ may not be wholly impartial, and that their ‘expert pronouncements’ and arguments, although developed at taxpayer’s expense, may be influenced, to some degree, by the specific interests of their clients.
Mr Bowles and Mr Boyd’s assertions, which have been quoted above, unless taken out of context, are incorrect and misleading; they don’t reflect the stability standards that are applied either on current UK fishing vessels or on those built in 1973. The two marine experts also play down the critical importance that an ‘inclining test’ has in determining a vessel’s stability.
Their implication that the International Maritime Organization’s mandatory requirements for inclining experiments and stability  were developed for purposes other than vessels operating at sea is really quite surprising.
Currently, inclining tests are an essential part of the statutory processes that ensure UK fishing vessels have adequate stability while operating at sea. (ref. Merchant Shipping Notice 1770 – contains mandatory static and dynamical stability criteria for contemporary fishing vessels of a type and size similar to Trident).
It may be useful, perhaps, to provide some clarification on the types of ‘stability’ that have been discussed during this inquiry:
All vessels have an inbuilt or inherent level of stability/resistance to capsize; however, this remains an ‘unknown quantity’ until an inclining test has been carried out. The inclining test enables the weight of the vessel and the position of its centre of gravity to be determined. It is only when these values are known that the elements of a vessel’s static and dynamical stability can be calculated and compared against the standards that are required to ensure safety at sea.
Stability (in ships) - is a measure of a ships ability to return to its upright position after being heeled through some angle to port or to starboard. The tendency of a ship to ‘right itself’ is caused by the horizontal separation of the ships weight and buoyancy forces when it is heeled. The term ‘stability’ has a distinct meaning for commercial seagoing vessels and its values may be calculated accurately for different sailing conditions. The principal stability standards that are applied in the UK today are those laid down by the International Maritime Organization in the form of static and dynamical stability criteria, all of which a vessel must meet before it can put to sea.
While the IMO criteria have been developed from ‘static’ rather than ‘dynamic’ considerations and do not explicitly take ship motions and sea conditions into account, they have been found, after many years of experience and feedback from the world’s seagoing fleets, to provide a base stability standard that will prevent a vessel from capsizing in all but the most severe of weather conditions.
Inclining experiment - An inclining experiment neither measures nor tests a vessel’s stability. The purpose of an inclining experiment is to provide data that will enable a vessel’s displacement (weight) and the position of its centre of gravity to be determined. The inclining test is ‘static’ in nature and must be carried out in flat, calm conditions with the vessel in equilibrium in order to obtain accurate results. The results from an inclining experiment are essential for the accurate determination of a vessel’s stability characteristics.
Static stability (righting moment) – For a ship, the static stability at any given heel angle is the product of the horizontal separation (called GZ) between the vertical lines of action of the ship’s buoyancy force and of its weight multiplied with its displacement (note these two lines of action pass through the ship’s centre of buoyancy and centre of gravity respectively). The value of GZ varies with the angle of heel, and, if this variation is plotted from 0 degrees to (say) 90 degrees, something called a curve of statical stability is obtained.
Dynamical stability – If the area under the curve of statical stability is calculated up to any particular angle or between two inclined angles then this is known as the dynamical stability for the vessel (for the range of inclinations considered). It is a measure of the work required to be done or energy expended when forcing the vessel to heel to that angle.
Dynamic stability – This is a term that currently has different meanings for different people within the maritime industry. Traditionally it has been used instead of the term ‘Dynamical stability’ and additionally it has been used to describe a vessel’s ‘directional stability’ (ref Rawson & Tupper – Basic Ship theory) but, nowadays, more often than not, it is used (or misused) in a generic sense to describe the various properties that a ship may exhibit when in motion in a seaway.
Recently, as a result of concerns on stability fluctuations on large vessels such as Container or passenger ships the IMO has decided to examine ‘Dynamic stability phenomena in waves’ with a view to the eventual development of agreed mandatory criteria. However, this is a complex matter and it will be a number of years before any new stability criteria emerge.
It is obvious from the above that there is some scope for confusion between the terms ‘dynamical stability’ and ‘dynamic stability’ and, just as has happened in maritime circles, the Court may also have fallen victim to this misunderstanding.
Perhaps the differences between the two opposing camps and their views on stability could be briefly summarized as follows:
- The Counsel for the families would very much like the investigation to focus upon the types of trawler ‘stability’ that can be accurately calculated following an inclining experiment and for which there are International and National standards laid down (criteria for static and dynamical stability) i.e. something which is tangible.
- It would appear that Counsel for the other parties (including the Advocate General) might prefer the investigation to consider ‘dynamic stability’, for which no industry standards have been yet agreed either Internationally or Nationally and which has different meanings for different people: i.e. something which, at this moment in time, is not tangible.
In its latest revision to the International Code on Intact Stability, 2008 the International Maritime Organisation had this to say regarding the stability of ships in a seaway:
“The safety of a ship in a seaway involves complex hydrodynamic phenomena which up to now have not been fully investigated and understood. Motion of ships in a seaway should be treated as a dynamical system and relationships between ship and environmental conditions like wave and wind excitations are recognized as extremely important elements. Based on hydrodynamic aspects and stability analysis of a ship in a seaway, stability criteria development poses complex problems that require further research.”
It is suggested that while ‘Dynamic Stability’ may currently be of great interest to researchers, designers and operators of large container and cruise vessels, it is inappropriate for this developing field of applied science, on which there is no consensus, to be used as a basis for legal argument in a court of inquiry into the loss of a small trawler.
 IMO - International Code on Intact Stability
Monday, November 09, 2009
Surprisingly, the results from the underwater surveys and model tests have not, as yet, been publicised, but we can guess that they will form the centrepiece of the present inquiry and show the possibility of the Trident capsizing, but only in confused sea conditions with occasional ‘big’ waves - conditions just like those that the inquiry’s official experts are now trying to convince us were in play at the time of the loss.
 At the time the vessel was constructed (1973) the Whitefish Authority was meant to perform a supervisory/monitoring role to ensure that the stability of any fishing vessel, funded with State aid, met certain minimum standards.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
“The most irreducibly bad thing about lies is that they contrive to interfere with, and to impair our natural effort to apprehend the real state of affairs. They are designed to prevent us from being in touch with what is really going on. […] Lies are designed to damage our grasp of reality. […] In telling his lie, the liar tries to mislead us into believing that the facts are other than they actually are. He tries to impose his will on us. He aims at inducing us to accept his fabrication as an accurate account of how the world truly is” (H.G. Frankfurt, On truth)
Saturday, October 31, 2009
He said that “in a lengthy storm a big wave, measuring about 27ft, was likely to roll across the ocean as well” and added that the Trident would have been ploughing through a “confused sea state” with “individual waves coming from different directions all the time”.
“The inquiry also heard that the crew of the Faithful II, a fishing boat not far behind the Trident when disaster struck, recorded bad weather and eased back on their engines.” (The Press and Journal article, 30October 2009)
We are also interested to know whether those on the Faithful II did, in fact, record bad weather and, as a result, ease back on their engines, as the current inquiry contends, or whether they described conditions as “giving no cause for concern” and “heave to with engines stopped […] without trouble or anxiety” as mentioned in the report of the 1975 inquiry (see extract below).Earlier in the week, we had heard that another of the government’s experts, Mr Graeme Bowles, a Master Mariner, held the erroneous view that an inclining test on the Trident would not have correctly assessed her stability when at sea, and that “a dynamic stability test was usually done to check this” (LINK). Mr Bowles, it would appear, is not aware of past and current stability assessment procedures on UK fishing vessels and of the fact that, at present, safety regulations with regard to ship stability are based almost exclusively on data derived from inclining tests.
We have also read, in a previous newspaper article, that Ms Ailsa Wilson, counsel for the Advocate General, warned the victims' families that they might have to face an "inconvenient truth". Strangely, in today’s Britain, the “truth” appears to inconvenience the public more often than it does the government. Something must have gone wrong with this “truth” or with our ways of searching for it.
 As yet there has been no official information released concerning the evidence that is being presented in this public inquiry.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Prompted by this occasion, we visited the official DfT website (LINK) for an update on the proceedings.
Unfortunately, it appears that the official website, set up to deliver public information concerning this important inquiry, has not been updated since 5 June 2009.
Not a very promising start!
In order to assist our officials with the dissemination of public information we have provided a (LINK) to a web page where a copy (c/o Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) of the report of the first public inquiry (1975) may be read.
We would like to hope that the public information that is promised on the official website materialises before this publicly funded investigation concludes and the Sheriff retires to write his report.
"The purpose of a public inquiry is thus to carry out a full, fair and fearless investigation into the relevant events and to expose the facts to public scrutiny. That is or should be the purpose of every public inquiry." (Lord Justice Clarke, THAMES SAFETY INQUIRY)
Saturday, October 17, 2009
It is for this reason that we are now going to recount one of the more recent episodes in the Gaul saga, one which was played in the picturesque city of Brussels and in which, either willingly or unwillingly, several EU bodies played a part.
Between 2000 and 2006 a notable shift took place at the heart of Europe: the EU power elite gradually became aware of the fact that the federal Superstate, which they had long dreamed of and aspired to, had become an achievable prospect. The world was changing, power was shifting and the argument that a single European entity could be bigger and stronger than the sum of its member states was starting to make some kind of sense to more people. For a long time opposition from Britain, the national interests and the ‘vive la difference’ attitude of others had undermined the federalists’ expansionist aims. However, things were now looking different, new alliances were being forged between Europe’s new leaders, and Tony Blair was identified by the EU power brokers as the man who could deliver British assent to the new order – at a price .
Promptly, out of the woodwork, came all sorts of creatures who, zombie-like, would openly stalk us on the streets, in restaurants and cafes, public transport, shops and at the workplace - to pry, physically intimidate and proffer threats – on a continuous basis.
In public places, no matter where we sat, individuals would tag along, and sit themselves closely around us, conspicuously staring at us all the time. They would tail our car or follow us on public transport, in a manner designed to let us know they were there. We were bumped and jostled on the platforms of underground stations in such a way so as to give the impression that they were going to push us in front of the incoming train.
Various individuals loitered outside our Brussels home; flashlights were shone at our windows at night.
On returning home after outings there was sometimes a feeling that someone had been there in our absence and, on a number of occasions, we found that objects inside our house had inexplicably been broken or displaced.
Personal biographies were uncovered and thrashed out without courtesy or discretion by the same individuals. Smears were circulated in the background. Being conspicuous and offensive must have been, we reckon, a key part of their role.
Our car was tampered with, and only by a stroke of luck unpleasant consequences were averted.
Our communications were crudely monitored, as we ourselves could hear, and, in some instances, our phone calls and mail were diverted.
Our acquaintances, friends and family were also intruded upon and, at work, we were placed within a buffer of chosen and 'trusted friends’, while the rest of our work colleagues somehow knew they had to keep their distance, as if we had been under strict quarantine for some highly contagious disease.
Even some of our friends were made to deliver thinly veiled warnings so as to convince us to remain silent.
We wondered how much this charade was costing and who was able to sponsor such an extensive operation; “Zee Inglish pay”, another insider jovially informed us.
We considered making appeal to the law, but that was not going to be easy. Conversations with our solicitor were also crudely monitored, and then, one day, he decided abruptly to drop us as clients.
Lawyers, independent organisations and even some of the journalists whom we had eventually managed to contact for assistance admitted more or less openly that there was little they could do or had the courage to try, while, as someone explained, “they can do anything, just like in the X and Y cases”.
Occasionally, temptations would be laid before us, bribes and sweeteners discreetly offered, and the prospect of a carefree and comfortable existence subtly promised in return for our capitulation.
I myself have received thousands of pounds on a government contract, which, as it later turned out, did not actually make it possible or require me to deliver anything, but just to relax and get paid.
When the bribery did not work, hostilities were resumed and our professional careers were wrecked.
“This is not going to last forever, the right-minded majority will not tolerate such regime for very much longer“, we thought at the time; “Don’t underestimate the voters’ credulity and the ruthlessness of the system” a cynic commented.
It is of course hard to describe in detail everything we have learned about the tactics of our new masters, what this brief account refers to being just a prelude to our subsequent experiences in Britain, which turned out to be a lot harsher.
We will, of course, continue, as we must, with the sequel and try to reveal a few more details about the Gaul saga and its ever-expanding cover-up.
I am pretty sure, however, that what we came across were only a few manifestations of the abusive power that the system has at its disposal, as I am also sure that we are not the only ones to have experienced them.
It is important to reveal these things to the public because they are not only about a fishing trawler and the betrayal of its victims; they are also about the rest of us and, more importantly, about our democracy, which is now slipping through our fingers, like the precious water of Choaspes.
---------------------------------------------------------- Tony Blair is now set to become the first President of the European Council.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
There is also, of course, the official joint report, compiled by a 14-man expert panel, which, we are told, attributes the loss of the Trident to ‘seakeeping problems’.
These differences of opinion on what caused the tragedy are likely to add further delays to the formal inquiry.
Although we have not seen either of the above-mentioned reports, we would like to venture a couple of preliminary observations on the subject:
In such a case, it is to be expected that cause and effect and, therefore, blame and liability would be rather difficult to establish. 
 Expert report on stability deficiencies by Mr Martin Pullinger, naval architect with over 30 years of experience with Burness Corlett & Partners – a marine consultancy firm who provided technical advice to the Gaul and Derbyshire formal investigations.
 This is perhaps the first indication of possible government interference in what should be an impartial technical process.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
There is no reason why these rules could not have been amended in a timely manner; in fact, the UK Load Line regulations were recently modified by Statutory Instrument (SI) 2005 No. 2114, so as to implement the following changes:
“……… in the definition of "pleasure vessel" or "pleasure craft", as the case may be, for each reference to "husband or wife" substitute "spouse or civil partner".
Now, that was extremely important - and also revealing of our government’s legislative priorities as regards Maritime safety.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
As if possessed by some ungodly avarice, the government has adopted the moral philosophy of the money-changers, and has now the audacity to take those wounded in war to Court, for the purpose of minimising their injury compensations.
The so-called ‘culture of compensation’ that many within the British Establishment often decry is, in fact, the normal application of the law; it is not charity.
The right to compensation represents one of the principal checks and balances that society has created so as to ensure that its weakest members have some protection against the might of the strong.
What is more, the prospect of litigation can make both governments and private employers much more careful when dealing with human lives.
Friday, July 17, 2009
The matter in question was Lord Woolf’s view – a view shared by other judges apart from the Lord Chancellor – that the final decision as to whether or not High Court judges should chair public inquiries, and who should be appointed to such duties, must necessarily rest with the head of the judiciary.
What struck us about Lord Wolf’s arguments, however, was the fact that his Lordship appeared more in favour of the judiciary skirting the politically sensitive cases rather than accepting the challenges they presented, giving thus the impression that the judges wanted both to have their cake and eat it… that is to remain both virtuous – preferably through non-exposure rather than as a result of personal endeavour - and on good terms with the government of the day.
And, reverting to the unfortunate case of the Gaul RFI, one feels tempted to ask, why is it that some of our judges, whose righteousness Lord Woolf was so keen to protect, having already sided with the government and having already been seen doing so, are still unwilling to make amends?
Are not our judges supposed to be the heroic defenders of the law’s basic commitments against the encroachments of politics? Is judging no longer concerned, as judge William E. Werner once explained, “with the romance of perseverance, of pluck and back bone”?
[*] Woolf wants final say over inquiries, The Times, December 15, 2004
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Enthralled, day-by-day, we read of new revelations in the MPs’ expenses scandal and witness the unseemly squirming of those caught with their hands in the till.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
In his recent statement (see HERE) the Secretary of State for Transport asserted that there were “no grounds for suspecting that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred” during the Gaul RFI, although - as his own Department currently maintains - the grounds put forward by us have never been properly examined.
In fact, Mr Hoon made sure that no adequate technical counsel was obtained, lest the ‘grounds for suspecting a miscarriage of justice’ would become too ‘apparent’ to him, obliging him to re-open the case. (That is assuming he didn’t know the truth already.)
His contrived ignorance of the matter may also be seen as a precautionary measure taken with a view to escaping future liability: if ever brought to account, Mr Hoon must have reckoned, he would be able to claim lack of knowledge about the technical basis of our arguments.
Thus, like the drug courier who refrains from looking in his suitcase, Mr Hoon has avoided asking for expert advice, shielding his eyes from any unwanted knowledge.
As a lawyer, however, Mr Hoon can be no ingénue in such legal matters and should be aware that this is not how things work in the normal world. Courts are known to have decreed many times in the past that the ignorance-pleading smuggler should have known, and they may likewise, one day, decide that Mr Hoon should have asked.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Our initial query concerned the source of the technical advice given to the Transport Minister, Mr Jim Fitzpatrick, in response to our criticisms of the Gaul RFI.
The common practice, as far as I am aware, given that there are no marine specialists within the Department itself, is to seek technical counsel from one of the DfT’s agencies: i.e. the MCA  or the MAIB . The DfT, however, informs us that “no request for additional information was made by the Minister”.
So which officials within the DfT assessed the technical evidence we had provided?
Are we to assume that, perhaps, the Shadow Minister for Transport was corresponding, in fact, with one of Mr Fitzpatrick’s typists?
Is it not more likely that, as it nowadays happens, the Minister outlined his politics-driven decision and then asked the DfT civil servants to draft his response along those lines? Common sense and experience tell us that no official would make ministerial decisions in his place – especially when the issues at stake are both complex and sensitive.
Whatever the case, the statement in Mr Fitzpatrick’s letter: “I am advised that there is no reason to re-open the investigation” now looks as though it had been intended to mislead his Opposition counter-part into assuming that, maybe, a great assembly of experts and scholars had been drawn in to review and offer advice on our criticism of the Gaul RFI.
 Martime and Coastguard Agency
 Marine Accident Investigation Branch
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Sunday, February 08, 2009
A few small notes in the 13 February 1974 edition of Lloyd’s List, reproduced below, gave the first details about the search for the missing trawler.
Over the following days, Lloyd’s List published several brief reports on the progress of the search operations:
The unsuccessful search for the Gaul was closed at 15.00 hours GMT on the 15th of February 1974.
On the 19th of February the Department of Trade and Industry ordered an official inquiry into the loss of the Gaul.
The last Nimrod search operation ordered by the Prime Minister on the 20th February 1974 ended two days later without success.
The wreck of the Gaul was only discovered twenty-three years later, in 1997.
In 2004, the Re-opened Formal Investigation into the loss of the vessel concluded that the 36 fishermen of the Gaul had died at their own hands.
Today, 35 years after the tragedy, the truth about what caused the loss of the Gaul still remains unacknowledged, walled inside a 21st century edifice of political spin.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Ethics, it’s been said, becomes an issue only when things become dangerous; hence, with the coming recession, an ethical revival in British politics should be treated now as a matter of urgent priority.
To clean the stables and make it such that, in future, only the best men and women are eligible to represent us is, of course, a Herculean task – but not a task that a strong-willed political leader, and a good sweeping broom, would be unable to achieve.
“AUGEAS: But it makes a difference whether we muck out just a bit or whether we have a radical muck-out. If we muck out just a bit, after a year, the muck will stand as high as it stands now or even higher, considering the amount of it we produce. Therefore we have to muck out radically.” (Friedrich Dürenmatt, The Augean Stables)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
In a letter dated 17 December 2008 (see HERE), Mr Hoon made known his opposition towards a possible re-hearing of the Gaul Formal Inquiry.
In his elaborate message, the Transport Secretary sought to suggest that the evidence and analysis we had provided over the last three years was not of a quality and quantity that would undermine his confidence in the execution of the 2004 RFI. Consequently, with his confidence intact, Mr Hoon considered himself free from any obligation to have the results of the Gaul RFI re-examined.
Back in 2003, if I remember correctly, Mr Hoon didn’t used to be so demanding, and needed a lot less evidence to be able to claim, against the best experts’ advice, that two trailers found in Iraq were ‘mobile weapons laboratories’. That was a different kettle of fish, of course, but Mr Hoon’s variable stance towards evidence standards, somehow, undermines his credibility as trier of fact.
What intrigued us even more, however, was that, this time, Mr Hoon would reveal neither the source nor the substance of the technical advice that had underpinned his decision, offering us no other option than to take him at his word and rest assured that the hint of political embarrassment or scandal was not a factor in his weighty deliberations, deflecting him from his pursuit of the public good.
Sadly, what follows from the Transport Secretary’s position is that, whenever the results of a government-led public inquiry are contested, no matter how compelling the evidence adduced, it is solely up to the government to decide whether or not those results should be re-examined, and it is totally in the government’s power to cloak their decision-making from public view and independent scrutiny.
I wonder, on a large scale, what the consequences of this trend are going to be.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
 The Derbyshire Re-opened Formal Investigation bears many similarities with the Gaul Re-opened Formal Investigation – not the least of which is the fact that both investigations were presided over by judges who were acknowledged experts in the field of maritime commercial litigation.