Page 105 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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factor in arriving at a conclusion, at any rate as to whether there was any lack of reasonable precautions, which is only another way of expressing whether there was any negligence. If you were being asked to say that the disaster occurred by reason of their having omitted to take some precaution which would have made it impossible for this vessel to travel between the United States and this country because the precaution to be taken would have necessitated such expenditure as would have prevented this “Titanic” being a commercial venture, of course I can quite understand that you would say: “Oh, no; what I am dealing with is a matter of commerce, and there may be some risks which have to be taken, which everybody has to take, and it certainly is not for me to insist upon such a precaution as would destroy the mercantile marine of this country.” Of course, I quite appreciate that. What I am pointing out is that it is no precaution of that character which I say was not taken in this case, but it was the simplest precaution which was omitted, and that was the reduction of speed for a few hours. That impresses itself upon my mind very strikingly upon a review of the whole evidence, and more especially when I come to call your Lordship’s attention to the indications that there were, that they were dealing on that night with abnormal and not with normal conditions. The Commissioner: Is it your view that the existence of abnormal conditions is established? I rather gather that it is. The Attorney-General: It depends what you mean by abnormal. The Commissioner: You know it is important, if I have to consider the question of negligence, to consider whether there were abnormal conditions. The Attorney-General: I agree. I have given attention to it and I am going to call your Lordship’s attention to particular passages in the evidence which bear upon it. I attribute myself so much importance to this question regarding speed that I have no doubt most of what I have to say will be directed to that point. It has not been gone into exhaustively by the other side, by any of my learned friends who, of course, have dealt with other questions which more particularly affected them, leaving this particular question to me. Observations and arguments have been addressed to your Lordship, and I think of a very pertinent character, but both my friends, Mr. Scanlan and Mr. Clement Edwards, who touched upon this question, indicated that they were not going into it at length because they knew that I was proposing to do it. The question which I think you would put to yourself at the outset of an Enquiry into the evidence is, What is the standard of care to be taken in navigating a vessel of this kind on this track. I desire to make only one observation with reference to that, and one which I am quite sure will not be controverted and will be acceptable to your Lordship, and then to pass from it. The answer I would make is that it is the highest standard of care which is required in a case of this kind. I do not shrink, of course, from this observation, that I think greater care is required when you are dealing with a passenger and emigrant vessel of this character than when you are dealing with a cargo vessel. I quite understand that the observation might be made: “Well, but it is just as important in a cargo vessel that there should be no risk of loss of life of the crew or of the loss of the vessel as in the case of a passenger and emigrant steamer.” I do not think that is quite a correct view to take of it, with submission, and I do not expect it is the view which your Lordship would take. When a vessel is trading with passengers and emigrants there is a greater responsibility upon the Captain who is in charge of and responsible for some 2,201 persons, than if he is merely trading in a tramp steamer dealing with persons and in charge of persons who are used to the sea and who are more able to take care of themselves in times of difficulty than passengers, and particularly emigrants, who, perhaps, have never been to sea before. I do think that I am entitled to say that the highest standard of care has to be applied to passenger and emigrant ships. The Commissioner: I think it has to be applied on both cases; in both cases the highest standard, whatever it is, ought to be applied. I do not see why you should risk the lives of the
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