Page 52 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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generally, as your Lordship will see in a moment, not to enquire whether or not an officer who does not survive the loss of his ship has been negligent. The reason of it is not far to seek. In the ordinary course of these enquiries if an allegation is going to be made of negligence against an officer which would, if found by the Court, affect his certificate, the practice - and it is a practice which is regulated by the Rules - necessitates that notice must be given to him so that he may appear and defend himself. Of course, in the case of an officer who has not survived, it is impossible to deal with his certificate; the Court does not do it; and no notice to his representatives is necessary because of that fact. It is not necessary to go into it more in detail. Your Lordship will remember that I indicated this in opening the case, and pointed out that we were not asking your Lordship to find anything with regard to the certificates of the officers, because those who were in charge had succumbed in this disaster. But, my Lord, having regard to the nature of this Enquiry, and to what I think I am justified in calling the somewhat extraordinary character of this Enquiry, and also of the disaster, I cannot find, according to what I have been able to ascertain about the practice, that there is anything which would prevent your Lordship coming to a conclusion - assuming that you did, of course - I will not say, coming to a conclusion, but I will say considering and determining whether or not you think this vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care. With great respect, it does seem to me that it is not possible to deal with this Enquiry and to satisfactorily answer the questions that are put without, at least, coming to some conclusion with regard to that question. Sir Robert Finlay: I quite agree. The Attorney-General: I am glad my learned friend agrees. I wanted to make it quite plain that it must be so. The reason I am mentioning it is that your Lordship did indicate the view which is in accordance with the general practice, but there is a case to which I wanted to call attention only because it shows so plainly that that practice is not an invariable one. The Commissioner: I do not think either Mr. Laing, or Mr. Aspinall suggested the contrary. Sir Robert Finlay: I may say that I shall certainly ask for no indulgence on the ground of the unhappy death of these officers. I shall ask the opinion of the Court, and I shall ask the Court to say that there was no error of judgment on their part whatever. The Commissioner: That means also no negligence. Sir Robert Finlay: Certainly. The Commissioner: It includes it - no negligence or error of judgment? Sir Robert Finlay: Yes. I used the expression “error of judgment” because your Lordship put that as denoting something less than negligence - not even an error of judgment. On behalf of every one of those officers I want the fullest Enquiry into it, and I give the Attorney-General notice that I shall submit to the Court that they did what was right under the circumstances, and that no blame of any sort or kind is imputable to any of them. The Attorney-General: As long as it is quite clear that the matter is to be dealt with by the Court, I am satisfied. I want my learned friend to be quite clear that it will be my duty to submit to the Court some considerations which, if they commend themselves to the Court and are accepted would not agree with the view which my learned friend must necessarily contend for. I wanted it to be made quite clear, as I have to speak at the end. All I have to do is to put considerations to the Court. The Commissioner: Very well, you have given full notice now to the others. Mr. Clement Edwards: There is one matter, my Lord, a little outside the precise scope of my particular duties here which I want to mention. Sir Robert Finlay: Forgive me, there is one very small matter I have to mention. Something was said about the steerage-way of the “Titanic” when Sir Ernest Shackleton was in the box. He put it at 10 knots. I am told it would have steerage-way at 6 knots. Mr. Wilding is not here today, but he will be here on Monday and will state that.
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