Page 97 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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into your report a topic which cannot but affect the prestige of the British Mercantile Marine if the topic is introduced for the purpose of censuring the conduct of Captain Lord. Your Lordship’s report will have an international interest and importance. It will be circulated by the press in all foreign countries, or in most foreign countries, and if it contains any censure of the “Californian,” it will put into the hands of foreign critics a weapon of attack on the reputation of the British Mercantile Marine, of which we are very justly proud and jealous. I mention this in order that your Lordship may have present to your mind this aspect of the case, and consider whether it is in the public interest that publicity and advertisement should be given to what has been called the “Californian” incident. But in the interests of justice the report ought not to pass any censure on Captain Lord. In the first place the Commission was not appointed to enquire into his conduct at all. His conduct had absolutely nothing to do with the objects of this Enquiry as stated by the Attorney-General in his opening speech. There was no jurisdiction to hold any Enquiry into Captain Lord’s conduct. Under the Merchant Shipping Act an Enquiry may be held into the conduct of a Master who, after being in collision with another ship unreasonably fails to stand by her or give her his name. But apart from that section there is no power to hold an Enquiry into the conduct of a Master who, after being in unreasonably withheld assistance from a vessel in distress. It is admitted that there is no jurisdiction here to suspend or cancel Captain Lord’s certificate. If it has not that jurisdiction, it has no jurisdiction to censure him, because censure is merely ancillary to the jurisdiction which the Court possesses if it has jurisdiction of cancelling or suspending his certificate. Censure is frequently an alternative to the power which the Court has of suspending or cancelling a certificate in a fit case. But if the Court has no jurisdiction to deal with his certificate it cannot have a jurisdiction to express censure on his conduct. Whatever we may think, they are merely opinions which ought not to have the sanction which your Lordship’s report would give to the opinions which your Lordship may possibly hold. If the Board of Trade had power to order an Enquiry into Captain Lord’s conduct, it did not exercise the power, and it cannot now treat the Enquiry, which was not into his conduct, as if it had been. Under the Rules which regulate proceedings at these enquiries, if a charge is made against a Master, he must be told what the charge is. That is required by the Merchant Shipping Act, and is also required by the Rules which govern the procedure on these enquiries. The Rules are set out at page 723, and under Rule 3 he must, when an Enquiry is ordered, be served by the Board of Trade with a notice in the form which your Lordship will find on page 729, containing a statement of the questions which, on the information then in possession of the Board of Trade, they intend to raise on the hearing of the investigation, and service of this notice is essential in order to make a Master a party to an Enquiry. From the little experience I have had of Board of Trade enquiries, the very first step taken in a Board of Trade Enquiry is to formally prove service of these notices upon the men whose conduct may be called in question. No such notice was given to the Master of the “Californian.” On the 26th of April, Captain Lord and Gill gave their evidence at the American Court of Enquiry, and a transcript of that evidence was in due course transmitted to the Board of Trade. On the 11th of May, on the arrival of the “Californian” in Liverpool, statements were taken by the officers of the Board of Trade from Captain Lord, the three officers, two Apprentices, an A.B. and some of the engine room staff. On the 14th of May, Captain Lord attended here and gave his evidence, and his testimony was relevant to some of the questions which have been submitted to your Lordship. I asked on that occasion to be allowed to appear on behalf of the “Californian” and the Master, and my application was very properly resisted by the Attorney- General and objected to by your Lordship. My application was resisted or certainly not assented to by the Attorney-General, who properly explained that although the evidence showed that rockets were seen by the “Californian,” and the evidence showed that the “Titanic” was not very
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