Page 98 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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far from the “Californian,” it was very difficult to say that that evidence had any bearing upon the questions submitted to your Lordship, and, therefore, as the “Californian” was sailing, he proposed to put a few questions to the witnesses. That is, on the 14th of May after the Board of Trade had all the information which they now have bearing on the “Californian” incident. No charge at that time was made against Captain Lord, no intimation was made that any charge would be made, and he was not made a party to the Enquiry. He appeared here in no other capacity than as a witness to give to the Court such assistance as he could in answering questions which had then been submitted by the Board of Trade for your Lordship to answer. And the capacity in which I appeared is properly stated on the front page of the various records of the day’s proceedings “as having watched the proceedings on behalf of the owners and officers of the “Californian,” as distinct from “appearing on behalf of the ‘Californian,’” which are the words I see opposite more distinguished names. It is not until the 14th of June, a month after Captain Lord has left the witness-box, that an intimation is given that the Board of Trade propose to formulate a question relating to the “Californian,” which would give the Court an opportunity of censuring Captain Lord. It is not my province nor my purpose to criticise the procedure which has been adopted with relation to the “Californian,” but it is manifest from the statement of facts as I have stated them, that Captain Lord has been treated here in a way which is absolutely contrary to the principles on which justice is usually administered, or on which these enquiries are generally conducted. I respectfully urge the Attorney-General to consider whether this question ought really to be put at all. The object of it is explained by the Attorney-General on page 649. There it is stated that the object of this question is that the Law Officers of the Crown should get from your Lordship a finding of the facts relating to the “Californian” incident in order to enable them to make up their minds whether, in the public interest, they ought to institute criminal proceedings which may be instituted under Section 6 of the Maritime Convention Act. If that is the object of the question, I submit it is a wholly unfair object. If this man may be prosecuted hereafter, he ought to have had notice of this question before he entered the witness-box; he ought to have known precisely what the charge made against him was, and he ought to have had an opportunity of hearing the evidence given by the other witnesses before he himself had to give his own evidence. If you deal with this question, my Lord, and find the facts against Captain Lord, what chance would he have of a fair and impartial trial before a jury which had read your Lordship’s report? If that is the object, my Lord, of this Question, this invitation to your Lordship to find the facts with regard to the “Californian” incident, if the object is with a view to future proceedings, I respectfully and strongly urge that it is a most unfair object. If that is not the object, then I do not know what the object of the question is. If it is not in the public interest that Captain Lord should be charged with a failure to render assistance, then the question ought not to be raised so publicly here in the form of the question which has been submitted to you. Captain Lord has already been sorely and severely punished for his apparent inactivity during these fatal midnight hours. That inactivity, whichever view your Lordship may take of the facts, is, I venture to submit, an inactivity due to mere thoughtlessness or error of judgment and not to any willful disregard of duty. He may have relied too much on his Second Officer and Gibson, the Apprentice; he may have erroneously drawn a wrong inference from the reports which they made to him. Whatever his conduct was it was conduct due to a want of appreciation of what the real circumstances at that time were, and not to any willful disregard of duty. The ordeal of public criticism and public censure, through which he has already passed, will, without further censure, be a sufficient warning to him and to other Masters of the strict duty that lies upon those who go down to the sea in ships of rendering assistance if they can to other vessels in distress. It requires no further rebuke to impress upon Master Mariners the importance
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