Page 212 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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The Attorney-General: Certainly. The Commissioner: I do not say anything of that kind happened in this case - but a mistake and negligence are very, very different things. The Attorney-General: Of course, you have to bear in mind, and those who are assisting you have had it constantly present in their minds, that the importance of this Enquiry is really as to the view which your Lordship will form for guidance as to the future. The Commissioner: May I say something about that. Much has been said about it, and something has been said about it by the witnesses. This accident has added enormous knowledge to the experience that men will have to be guided by in the future; but whether, in view of the knowledge that people had at the time of the disaster, it was negligence is another matter. If the same thing were to happen tomorrow, with this knowledge in the minds of men, I can scarcely conceive that it would not be negligence of a very gross kind, because they now know what apparently, if this evidence is right, they did not know then, and that knowledge adds to the experience. The Attorney-General: No doubt. In the argument which I shall address to the Court, I shall draw the distinction, and have done throughout, at any rate in my own mind, between what would be negligence up to this date of the 14th April. Whether with all the knowledge and experience that navigators had at that time they had to take special precautions such as reduction of speed, towards which there has been so much attention drawn in this case, is, of course, a point which will require, and to which I have no doubt your Lordship will give, very careful consideration. And, apart altogether from that, assuming for the moment that your Lordship comes to the conclusion that, taking into account all the circumstances - the atmospheric conditions, the very flat calm sea, no swell, and so forth - assuming that you, with this combination of circumstances, come to the conclusion that there was no negligence on the part of those navigating, but that there was, nevertheless, in view of what happened, an error of judgment - your Lordship’s view about that really depending upon what actually happened as proving that there was an error of judgment as distinguished from negligence, that I can quite appreciate. Of course, those are matters which, as I have indicated, are considerations for the Court. I am very glad it is no part of my duty to urge the Court to find negligence against those who were responsible for the navigation, to strain the evidence in that way. Mine, fortunately in this respect, is not an advocate’s duty in that sense. All I have to do - and I think it my duty to do it in view of the evidence that has been brought forward here - is to put the considerations before you for your judgment; and that is all. The Commissioner: You are in the position of a prosecuting counsel in a criminal case, in fact; that is to say, your duty is to take care that the facts are fairly placed before the Court. The Attorney-General: Quite. Sir Robert Finlay: I think my friend is not really in that position. I think he is on one of these Enquiries in a semi-judicial position. The Attorney-General: I agree. I think my Lord would say, and I should agree with him, that as a prosecuting counsel, you are also in a semi-judicial position. Sir Robert Finlay: The prosecuting counsel is bound to show the utmost generosity to a man on his trial, but I put the duty of the Attorney-General on an Enquiry of this kind rather higher than that. The Attorney-General: I do not think there is any difference between us about it, or between my Lord and me. Now, my Lord, when we have dealt with that part of the case, then comes that portion of the Enquiry which I say, with all respect, is the more important part, because it is designed to protect the public in the future. However lamentable it may have been, we cannot help what is past, but we can do something, or your Lordship can, with the assistance that you have, towards making some recommendations for the protection of the public in the future. My
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