Page 15 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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The Commissioner: I do not know that it will be of much value, but still he has prepared it, and I should like him to put it in. The Attorney-General: The only thing which I think would be useful if he did - he has done it at my request on the model, and I want him also to put it on this sectional plan - is to indicate the spots at which, according to the evidence, there was water found. It is so much easier to see it than merely to describe it. The Commissioner: It will be very useful to me. The Attorney-General: He has done it on the model, but I think it would be better on the sectional plan as well. Mr. Edwards: There is one matter I am not quite clear upon. Your Lordship has had a discussion as to the question of possible negligence or error of judgment on the part of Captain Smith; I understand your Lordship said that we may conclude the Enquiry subject to that question. The point I want to ask your Lordship is this: Though your Lordship may keep open your judgment on that point, whether those who are addressing your Lordship are also to leave the matter over or whether we are to deal with it as far as we can on the basis of the evidence already before the Court. The Commissioner: I will tell you, Mr. Edwards, how it occurs to me. You and Mr. Scanlan and others are no doubt concerned generally in the question of this calamity and how it happened and who is to blame; but you are more particularly concerned in the matters that you so closely examined the Witnesses about - boats, watertight bulkheads, and the construction of the ship. Those are matters that it appears to me you are more closely concerned with. At the same time I do not mean to say that you are not also concerned with the question of blame, if any, to be imputed to those who were navigating the ship; and therefore you will have to address yourselves, but I hope not at any great length, to that question. There is, of course, a very important distinction between what I call an error of judgment and negligence. You cannot have a better illustration of it than something that has happened in the evidence in this case. You remember, I daresay, that Mr. Wilding said that in his opinion if this vessel had gone stem on to the ice it would have been better for the lives of the people than if she had starboarded her helm and so torn a rent in her side for some distance aft. As at present advised, assuming Mr. Wilding’s view to be correct (I am far from saying that his view is correct) and that what the man at the helm was told to do was wrong, I should be very loth to say that such a direction given to the man at the helm was negligence. It was a mistake, possibly, but a mistake and negligence are very different things. I give you that as a sort of illustration. Mr. Edwards: Yes, my Lord. The Commissioner: I am told, Sir Robert, and you can tell me if it is right - I did not know it - that it is not the practice to find negligence against a dead man. Is that so? Mr. Butler Aspinall: I have never known a case, and I have always known this, that the Court has shown the greatest reluctance to accede to any such suggestion. The Commissioner: That is what I feel. I feel the greatest reluctance to finding negligence against a man who cannot be heard. Mr. Butler Aspinall: That is the point, my Lord. He has no opportunity of giving any explanation. He is a man with a good record. The Commissioner: But if there is a fixed practice, of course, I am relieved of the difficulty altogether. Mr. Butler Aspinall: Mr. Laing will, I think, agree with me; I cannot say it has been laid down as a fixed practice, and I really do not know a case in which the Captain or the officer in command has been lost, but there have been a good many enquiries in my experience, and I have never known a case in which the Court has found a dead man guilty of negligence, and I think I am right in saying I do not know a case in which it has been invited to do so even by adverse
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