Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Detectives' Story

The New Labour Militsiya, formerly known as the Metropolitan Police, have been trying to spin their way around the institution’s publicly avowed commitment to openness and accountability.
Asked to provide information (see our FOI request HERE) about the manner in which they had dealt with our fraud and corruption allegations about the conduct and outcome of the 2004 Gaul RFI, they refused to do so, making the most of the exemption provisions in the FOI Act, and pettifogging about their grounds for absolute secrecy.
Amongst other things, they argued, disclosing the detectives’ assessment of the case and their justification for refusing to investigate our complaint could expose their “operational methodology and investigative techniques” to the general public and, potentially, to any crooks with an interest in foiling them.
Far from it being our intention to wreck the operational capability of the Met, we contend that our request was only aimed at confirming their ability to act as politically impartial public servants; we were not particularly interested in their investigative methods - which, frankly speaking, are already known to many of us, having recently read about them in the national press.
Therefore, availing ourselves of the same FOI Act provisions and of the Information Commissioner’s interpretation thereof, we have sent the Met our reply (HERE) and insisted on a review.
The whole exchange of correspondence can be seen at:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Launching day

Today is the 6th of December. Thirty-seven years ago, on 6 December 1971, the Gaul was launched at the Brooke Marine Yard in Lowestoft. At the launching ceremony – a sort of baptism for the ship – the vessel was given her first name: Ranger Castor.
The ship launch itself signifies the moving of the ship from shore into the sea. With the Gaul, as with many other vessels, this was done using slipways – greased sliding ramps along which the vessel slid slowly into the water.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Враги трудящихся *

All leaders of the Constitutional Democratic party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before the revolutionary court[1]
That our government is ruling over this country by inalienable, divine right is no longer debatable. They have now assumed absolute power, and along with it the conviction that they always do what is ‘right’ and, therefore, must never be challenged.
Members of Parliament find it increasingly difficult to obtain straight answers to their questions and are no longer able to hold the government to account. Most of the time, the New Labour ministers manage to deflect attention away from any inconvenient topics, obfuscate unhindered and, on occasion, even get away with impudently insincere replies.
We ourselves know it only too well, since none of the MPs whom we have contacted in relation with the Gaul RFI miscarriage of justice was able to break the government’s silence and bring the matter to the fore.
And, as though things were not bad enough as they were, it now turns out that the government has decided that some of these inconvenient questions should not even arise.
As confirmation on this state of affairs, we learn that, a couple of days ago, a member of the shadow cabinet was arrested for the ‘crime’ of having embarrassed the government with the disclosure of some leaked information - data which, in the public interest, we should all have the right to see.
The British Police, in pure Cheka [2] fashion, seem to have started rounding up the Opposition politicians who are still able to confront the executive – a few sparse, dissenting voices, now treated as ‘enemies of the people’, who must be annihilated and made an example of.
(This, of course, is the same police force who, faking ignorance and confusion, sidestepped the allegations of fraud in the Gaul RFI in order to protect the Labour high ranks and the murky interests behind them.)
Anyone who dares to spread the slightest rumour against the Soviet regime will be arrested immediately and sent to a concentration camp.” [3]
_________________________________________________
* Enemies of the labourers
[1] Grigory Zinoviev
[2] Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (i.e. Soviet Police)
[3] Izvestiya, "Appeal to the Working Class", 1918

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Behind time

As this blog attests, we have periodically requested various bits of information from the Department for Transport, on the subject of the Gaul RFI.
Periodically, though not without additional prompting, one of Mr Jim Fitzpatrick's officials, like a cuckoo out of the clock, would come out to deliver his two-note message - a message sterilised beforehand by the various DfT attorneys - and then quickly withdraw.
The answer to our latest request (see
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/trawler_gaul) is now overdue.
The government seems to be playing for time. Maybe, they hope, with time, the questions will go away and everything will be nice again.
Or, maybe, we reckon, the questions will get a lot worse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Asking the PM

The dapper Number 10 YouTube channel is currently offering the proletariat in this country the chance to ask the PM questions (in video format) about the economy.
Wishing to take advantage of this unique opportunity, we prepared a short video clip (see below the better Dailymotion version) and confidently submitted it to http://uk.youtube.com/DowningSt.



Unfortunately, our clip, it seems, is not going to make it to the Prime Minister's attention.
Why? Probably, its content was not considered pertinent enough to economic matters, or, perhaps, too pertinent for its own good. Who knows?
Anyway, Downing Street has kindly sent us a reply to a related FOI request (you can see it here:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/corruption_investigation), on which we shall comment properly in due course.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The epistemological virtues of John Prescott’s class concerns

The BBC has recently delighted us with a two-part documentary about John Prescott, MP and his opinions on the class system in Britain.
The programme was designed to portray Mr Prescott as a man of the people, full of candour, bonhomie and good intentions - the idyllical tones in the scenes of his domestic life tempered only by his robust take on the social inequalities in Britain.
Having had the chance, during his ten years in office, to improve the lot of those less fortunate than him, Mr Prescott now has the chance to decry that lot while at leisure.
Although Mr Prescott is not so interesting as a personality, he is still noteworthy for his symbolic value.
The BBC show, light though it was, provided a glimpse into the worldview of John Prescott’s kind of militant - i.e. the kind which remains forever insurgent.
This type - even after they have acquired wealth, political power, and have gained access to high government office and the chance to trample the social barriers underfoot - are always frustrated, deep down in their hearts, always harbouring a resentment, a grudge against the objects of their failed emulation, against something that eludes them, but which others acquire with ease and lightly pass down successive generations - a situation which, they protest, is terribly unfair.
This must be due to the fact that Mr Prescott and some of his compeers see the differences between people mainly in ephemeral terms. If they included in their ranking of human merit some more perennial values, they would find what really makes people differ, and, maybe, would also realise that modest origins are not always a guarantee of altruism and concern for the poor and that, quite often, the opposite can be true.
The pitiful saga of the Gaul stands testimony to that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Verba volant scripta manet

When Moses received God’s commandments, he didn’t have any paper to write them down on. Still, he dutifully carved them onto clay tablets, which he carried all the way down the mountain to show his people the proof.
More than three millennia down the line, the UK Department for Transport, inexplicably, are not even able to store the instructions received from their earthly superiors, and the reasons behind some of their most important decisions are not kept in any decipherable form.
As already mentioned in a previous post, in response to our FOI request of 4 July 2008, the DfT informed us that they held no specific technical justification [of their decision not to re-hear the Gaul RFI] recorded in any form. Within the same reply, the DfT also mentioned that their earlier decision fully sets out the Secretary of State’s reasoning in relation to the re-opening of the investigation.
Unaware of what that reasoning was, we have formally asked them, via another FOI request (dated 11 September 2008), to provide us with a full account of the reasoning behind the Secretary of State’s decision not the re-open the Gaul Formal Investigation.The DfT’s response to this latest enquiry, received on 13 October 2008, was astounding. It stated simply that “The department does not hold such an account in recorded form.” Hmm! From the Department’s contradictory statements we are now left to surmise that either there was no analysis and justification behind their decision not to re-open the Gaul RFI, or that their reasoning has not been ‘set out’ and recorded on any physical media or legible format. It may, therefore, only exist in their heads – in the form of mental images, conceptions, impressions or phantasms. Or, perhaps, it only manifested itself via sensory representations, dispositions, moods or affections.
It is, of course, also possible that the DfT is not telling the truth. But, that would be terribly bad and unbecoming.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

MV Derbyshire

Recent events have compelled us to re-visit the MV Derbyshire shipping disaster, its causes and the ways in which the British Government conducted both the investigation and the re-investigation of the tragedy and to what effect.
We have therefore decided to dedicate a separate blog to the MV Derbyshire case, and this can now be visited at the following link: http://mv-derbyshire.blogspot.com/
As with the Trawler Gaul, we shall progress matters one step at a time, make the necessary disclosures, analyse and present the evidence piece by piece.
Possibly, with time, the number of our blogs will increase. Our government, certainly, offers enough scope for that.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Portfolios and kisses

Last week’s cabinet reshuffle marked a return to the good, old days of the Blair regime, the allocation of government jobs designed to celebrate the various Labour factions' decision to kiss and make up.
The reshuffle saw Peter Mandelson, New Labour’s own Machiavelli, hurriedly brought back from Brussels for his alleged ingenuity in economic concerns. It also saw several other similar characters ennobled or promoted to important cabinet jobs.
Geoff Hoon, a politician much beloved by the armed forces, was appointed Secretary of State for Transport, taking over from Ruth Kelly who had left the political scene in a rush. Lawyer by profession and quite flexible by nature, Mr Hoon is expected to deal with the DfT problems in a more expedient and craftier fashion.
The Department for Transport also witnessed John Prescott’s good friend, Rosie, bartered in exchange for his former loyal attendant, Paul Clark [*] - thus allowing old Mr Prescott to keep his chubby index finger on the DfT’s pulse.
The ends justify the means, the Prime Minister might have thought in his desperate struggle to remain in power.
But is this really an effective approach?
In situations like this, we fear, the ends can be quickly forgotten and the questionable means, chosen to attain them, turned into ends in themselves. And, having forgotten where it all started and what for, those means could then easily become institutions.
Or, have they already become that?
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[*] Just like Jim Fitzpatrick, the other Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, appointed in June 2007, who was once a junior minister at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why no search for the Gaul?

Although the approximate position of the Gaul had been well known, both in official and unofficial circles, in the 23 years that preceded its discovery, successive governments were reluctant to survey the area in question, and to locate and identify the wreck.
It was only in 1997, when TV producer Norman Fenton chartered a vessel and launched a search in the Barents Sea, that the position and identity of the wreck could be confirmed. Finding the wreck took him no longer than six hours. His discovery triggered an obvious question: why had a search for the wreck not been carried out earlier, this would have put an end to much of the speculation and rumours that had surrounded the vessel’s loss and, more importantly, would have helped to ease the grief, frustration and anger felt by the families and friends of those who had perished with the Gaul.
The discovery of the wreck obliged the Government to answer this question; hence, in April 1999, the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, asked Mr Roger Clark, Head of Shipping Policy in the DETR, to conduct an ‘independent’ [1] investigation into why there had been no search for the Gaul after her disappearance in 1974.
Mr Clark applied himself to the task and, a year later, his findings were published in a 60 pages DETR report (see Annex 1).

In brief, the Government’s justification, presented within Mr Clark’s report, claimed that:
Initially we didn’t really know where the vessel was and it would have cost too much to find her and, even if we were to find the vessel, the expense of carrying out an underwater survey of the wreck could not be justified in terms of the benefits it would bring for marine safety.
John Prescott lauded Mr Clark’s conclusions and expressed his total confidence in their soundness and objectivity.

During the 2004 Re-opened Formal Investigation, in response to the victims’ families’ dissatisfaction with Mr Clarke’s explanations, justice David Steel, the Wreck Commissioner, re-examined the arguments, then endorsed, in his turn, Mr Clarke’s earlier conclusions (see the final report of the RFI [2]).

While the official reasoning may appear quite plausible, we have reasons to believe that, in fact, the Government had never been too keen to discover the location of the wreck, not on the grounds advocated by Roger Clarke, but for an entirely different reason: i.e. because a survey of the wreck and an analysis of the evidence that it revealed would have raised questions as to the adequacy of her design. The DfT’s marine experts, it now appears, had long suspected that the arrangement of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul were a weakness in her design and that this weakness might have been a causal factor in her loss.

(Further details to follow)

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[1] As head of the DfT’s shipping policy section, Roger Clarke could hardly be considered independent of the government whose actions he was asked to investigate

[2] “We accept the Department’s submission that its actions were solely directed to balancing the interests of those immediately affected by the loss of the GAUL with the wider public interest and the resources available

Friday, September 26, 2008

The sure thing

In our post of 20 August 2008 we revealed the content of a Freedom of Information request that had been sent to the Department for Transport and the response received from them. This response confirmed that “no specific technical justification [of the Secretary of State’s decision not to re-open the FV Gaul Investigation] recorded in any form” was held by the DfT.

Consequently, we sent back a reply and also lodged another FOI request asking the Department to provide us with “a full account of the reasoning (of whatever kind and however held or expressed) behind the Secretary of State’s decision not to re-open the Gaul Formal Investigation)”. (See the full text at this link: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/justification_for_the_decision_n.)

The deadline for Mrs Kelly’s reply was 9 October 2008 and we were waiting with feverish anticipation for the arrival of that day, knowing that, whatever faults Ruth Kelly might have had, dishonesty was not one of them.
Alas, Mrs Kelly is to quit her post before that date. Who the next person to take over this 'poisoned chalice' will be, it is not yet known, but his/her identity, when revealed, will provide us with a clue as to whether the Prime Minister wants the cover-up to continue (and whether indeed he has a stake in it), or whether things will finally be resolved in a correct and honourable fashion.
So far, those with an interest in keeping the scandal under wraps have been quite lucky. But – as an old maxim warns us - the only sure thing about luck is that it changes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ruth Kelly

Mrs Ruth Kelly, it has been announced, is to quit her post of Secretary of State for Transport. The reason given for her departure was "spending more time with her family". Family and high-powered politics must be difficult to reconcile, we imagine.
Also, we hear, she had strong feelings about the government's position on the Embryology Bill.
In respect of what we are mainly concerned with - the FV Gaul Investigation - the Secretary of State for Transport found herself caught, once again, between a rock and a hard place.
Perhaps Mrs Kelly owed too many loyalties and they were all conflicting. No one can really serve more than one master, at the same time.
Anyway, we wish Ruth Kelly all the best for the future, and hope we haven't caused her too much offence.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Labour rondo

We are no longer in touch with the government. They are no longer governing; they are plotting, fighting the plotters or watching the plot.
The DfT, for instance, the department we are most concerned with, is now completely out of sorts, the officials waiting to see which way the wind will be blowing before taking even the smallest decision.
It’s the same all over again. The rebellious overture, the chorus of discontent, the war cries in the media, the panic, the bluster, the acrimonious retorts, the suspense, the empty declarations of loyalty or the opportunistic ambivalence, John Hutton’s eyes icily fixing us from the television screens, the foreboding lull and then… the return to the beginning.
We have seen them at it so often now that we can recognise their motives, the tactics and the idiosyncrasies of each of them, just as girls in a massage parlour can, after a while, recognise their clients by their individual penchants and dislikes.
After so many months, however, the monotony of this repetition is starting to irritate, wearing down our patience and turning it slowly into disgust. And the danger is that, if the plotters have their way, our disgust could turn into anger.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Objectivity Constrained

In their 30 year-long search for truth, the relatives of the trawlermen who lost their lives on the Gaul had to compete against a number of adversaries whose interests would not have been best served if the reasons for the tragedy had become known.
The victims’ relatives were not aware of the nature of the fight they were in, nor did they know the identities or the motives of their adversaries. All they knew was that they were not being given straightforward answers to their questions, and that the facts were somehow eluding them.
Although, in theory, meant to provide an explanation as to the most likely causes for the tragedy, the 2004 Gaul Formal Investigation, like a number of other public inquiries, became, in fact, nothing more than a case of ‘shadow commercial litigation,’ organised and controlled by the very parties whose interests would have been adversely affected by an impartial verdict. The Gaul RFI was therefore an unequal fight - dressed up as an expert and unbiased analysis - a fight the outcome of which was both pre-determined and inevitable.
Concerns have already been raised that, due to their legalistic and adversarial nature, many formal inquiries, instead of pursuing the truth, provide in fact a platform from which opposing parties, flanked by their legal representatives, can pursue their specific interests, and that, when the ‘adversaries’ are not evenly matched, it is usually the interests of the mightiest that prevail.
It is evident to us that improvements in respect of the rules by which formal inquiries are conducted are necessary and important.
However, above and beyond any rules and safeguards that may be applied, what is most important is the professionalism and personal integrity of the individuals involved - the principal guarantee that the results of an inquiry will be meaningful and sincere.

(More details to come)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Two years after

Yesterday we marked two years since this blog was started, two years since we made public our findings and our concerns regarding the miscarriage of justice in the Gaul Formal Investigation.

What has happened since? Nothing much. Nothing except gaining further knowledge about how the current regime works, how it respects the law and the rights of ordinary people, and how it retaliates when taken to account.


Two years after we have started this blog, the only conclusion we would draw is that we, as well as those whom the 2004 Gaul inquiry betrayed, are treated as insignificant, that financial & political might is always right, and that there are no longer any principles to be cherished, rules to be played by, or even appearances to be saved.

Ho hum, what to do next? ... Pursue the matter all the way to its rightful conclusion, of course.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The limits of reasoning

On the 4th of July, we lodged an FOI request with the Department for Transport, asking them to provide us with the reasons and technical arguments underpinning the Secretary of State’s earlier decision not to re-open the Gaul investigation on the basis of our disclosures.
(You can see the full exchange of correspondence at this link: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/evidence_
undermining_the_results)

The DfT eventually sent us their reply in which they stated that the Secretary of State’s decision “fully sets out the Secretary of State’s reasoning in relation to the re-opening of the investigation” and that the DfT held “no specific technical justification [of that decision] recorded in any form

The Department’s statement, short though it is, is pregnant with implied meaning.
Thence we found out that our disclosures and technical arguments made over the past two years have washed over the DfT like water off a duck’s back. This is an admission by the British government that concrete evidence, invalidating the results of a public inquiry, was not considered as required by law. (See also our post of 12 July 2007)
This, of course, is understandable since the Department know damn well that the outcome of the Gaul RFI represents a miscarriage of justice, without having to review our evidence. The officials’ obstinate non-engagement with the subject is their way of maintaining the deceit without getting themselves ensnared by their tongues.

Their claim that the Secretary of State’s decision “fully sets out the Secretary of State’s reasoning in relation to the re-opening of the investigation” is already hazarded, and so untrue as to make it laughable.
Given that the response previously received from the Secretary of State only mentions that “the Department is satisfied that there is no reason to doubt the outcome of the expert analysis that led to the Re-opened Formal Investigations conclusions and consequently there is no reason to re-open the investigation”, the DfT’s latest statement can only be taken as a crude parody or as a blunt admission that this is, actually, as far as the Secretary of State’s reasoning powers normally go.

Yet, through its very brevity, the DfT’s reply provides us with further confirmation that the decision not to re-open the Gaul RFI was unlawfully taken and politically motivated.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Answer from Lord Goldsmith

In response to our message of 25 June 2008, Lord Goldsmith has gracefully sent us his reply.

"As I am no longer Attorney General those matters are more properly for the present Attorney General and I therefore send a copy of your letter onto her."

(The present Attorney General will be looking forward to its receipt, I'm sure. We already contacted her office, a year ago, and that proved to be an unsuccessful enterprise.)

In truth being said, we did not address Lord Goldsmith in his present official role, but in his role as the leading party in the 2004 Gaul RFI.
We did not call upon his current employment duties as much as upon his remanent responsibility for an investigation conducted under his baton, and we did not count much on the requisites of formal routine, but on the munificence of lordship.

And we would have been very much interested to learn more about the rationale behind his past decisions.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Licence to jest

When Tony Blair relinquished his power, he left John Prescott behind to enliven his court. Thus, Mr Prescott has maintained his privilege to entertain and his licence to speak freely about whatever he liked.

It has always been one of the roles of the jester to turn reality on its head, so that people can see it the wrong way up and laugh at its funny appearance. This well-known trickiness of the jester may now give us the key to Mr Prescott's reflections recently published on his blog [www.labourhome.org/comments].

"Gordon's the right Captain" (albeit of the Titanic), he proclaimed there, making us realise how sometimes the truth can be spoken in jest, or with the opposite intention by the clown.

"I always find it interesting when people use maritime analogies when they talk about leadership", added John Prescott who served both "on a ship and in a leadership" - experience which makes him readily prepared to talk about the Titanic (though not about the Gaul).

"The best way to avoid disaster is to manage your way around the problem", Mr Prescott also suggested.
Well, that's exactly how complaints about the Gaul RFI have been dealt with, so far.
So, was John Prescott's suggestion simply a piece of his wisdom, or a baleful warning?
"For me, it's all about setting the right course", he further explained, proudly tinkling the bells on his hat.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Goths

Another episode in the New Labour saga is rapidly unfolding under our eyes this season – the complex and unsightly drama of a ruling tribe in its death throes, wrought up in havoc, blazing scandal, and intestine discord.

For longer than a decade, its rowdy bands of mercenaries, chancers, quacks, bejewelled interlopers and freebooters have ravaged our lands, vandalising and turning everything to dust. Where they've passed, the grass no longer grows.

Now, cursing him for their sores, the scarcity of future plunder, the inauspicious weather and the accumulated discontent of their slaves, the bands have turned against their leader, plotting to sack him, take away his power, and burn his tent.
The plan is to replace him with a man more suited to their habits, with more lustre, but without valour.


Will their present chieftain find the necessary strength and ruthlessness to chop the heads of those who have raised against him, evangelise the rest, reverse the depredation and teach his men to cultivate the land instead?

Or will he follow the tragic fate of Gothic queen Amalasuntha? She also tried to curb corruption in her kingdom and put an end to the barbarians’ invasions. Sadly, she took the fatal step of sharing power with her cousin, a vengeful man who stirred up her people’s disaffection, usurped all her authority, and had her banished on the island of Martena.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Answers in a fishtail

In our previous posts (27 April, 05 May and 12 June), we have discussed the matter of the inner covers to the offal chute on the Gaul and provided photographic evidence from the wreck which showed that these covers had in fact been secured in the closed position prior to the loss of the vessel and that they could have been opened by the forces of the sea before sinking took place.

The 2004 RFI panel thought, however, that the offal chute inner covers – found open on the wreck – had been negligently left so by the crew. (The same explanation was employed in respect of the duff chute inner covers, which had also been found open.) (See also this POST)

It must be mentioned here that the regime on the Gaul was such that the operation of offal chute would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the factory manager and his team, while the operation of the duff chute was under the control of the deck crew.
This arrangement gave the RFI experts the opportunity to claim that the factory deck staff, as non-fishermen, had been ignorant about the importance of keeping the offal chute inner covers closed when not in use and, tragically, had failed to secure them at the end of a busy working day.

Unfortunately, the RFI also failed to draw any conclusions from the relevant information that was available to the inquiry. This information relates to the following facts:

1. The offal chute overboard discharge acted as a relief valve during the fish processing operations and, as such, it would only be used when the fish meal plant (rate = 25 tonnes/day) was operating at full capacity or when the fish meal hold was full (capacity = 120 tonnes)
It is also known that the Gaul skipper’s reports recorded that at the time of the loss, the vessel had only managed to accumulate about 20 tonnes of fish fillets onboard together with about 7 tonnes of fish-meal (i.e. a poor catch for the period she was fishing).
The logical conclusion that follows from these data is that there would have been no need for the factory crew to use the offal chute overboard discharge during the vessel’s last voyage.

2. Furthermore two witnesses (Messrs George Petty and Raymond Smith) testified at the hearings that the offal chute would not have been used during the last two voyages in the Gaul’s short life, simply because the fish meal hold was never filled.

More explanations, quotes and details on the subject have been published at this LINK and HERE (diagram).

Like the rest of the conclusions in the 2004 RFI report, the assumption of negligence by all parts of the crew, no matter how implausible, were forced into relevance and given the status of fact.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone was defined by Primo Levi as the zone of the privileged prisoner - the area of “ethical uncertainty and collaboration with evil”.

Today, many of us complain about widespread corruption and the decay of democracy, laying the blame for these ills solely upon the political elite and their corporate handlers.
In fact, as recent events have clearly shown, through complicity or inaction, the rest of us are just as responsible for what’s going wrong. For it is always a combination of the perversity of the system and the feebleness of the human character that causes the problem.
Greed, selfishness, duplicity, defeatism and fear are useful human weaknesses, exploitable by any fraudulent regime, weaknesses from which repressive states have always drawn their power and even a certain degree of legitimacy.

It is of course understandable that, with increasing deprivation, collaboration with a corrupt authority can appear logical and unavoidable - after all, the state can hold the key to every little need and comfort in our lives. Most often, however, it is not necessity, but the self-centred human desire to be given a shortcut to undeserved privilege and power that buys our collaboration, turns us against one another, and, in the process, makes us all more vulnerable and easily subdued.

Although history should have taught us how to defend ourselves when confronted with similar trials, we have been drawn, once again, within the boundaries of the ‘Grey Zone’- that “murky space of moral ambiguity and compromise” – which, for as long as it prospers, gives us little chance of ridding ourselves of authoritarianism and corruption, and returning to normal.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Incommunicado

Not to mention the truth is like hiding gold. (Proverb from Iraq)

Following on from our previous post, in which we published links to the message sent to Lord Goldsmith on the subject of the Gaul, we can now inform you that our noble Lord has not yet replied.

Although they had been asked to expect and check its arrival, his office did not acknowledge receipt of that message.
It was claimed, in fact, that the initial communication, as well as its subsequent four re-transmissions, sent from two different email accounts, had not been received.
Nor was Lord Goldsmith able, I gather, to read the content of the message published online.

There are many technical stumbling blocks, it seems, preventing Lord Goldsmith from reading that query and making his viewpoint known.

We now hope that the Royal Mail will not miss him as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A message to Lord Goldsmith

In order to gain more knowledge on the internal workings of the 2004 Gaul RFI, we thought it would be a good idea to contact the ex-Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, on whose behalf the inquiry was held.
A message has therefore been delivered to his Lordship, the contents of which can now be scrutinised at:
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddpkgjpm_27fxg936cp
or at:
http://wikileaks.org/wiki/User:Gadfly3D

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The smaller risk

By voting 'No' in the EU treaty referendum, the Irish people have expressed their wish to be free from external political domination and able to decide their own fate.
Despite the Irish veto and the will of the British electorate, our government has however decided to carry on with the ratification process.
According to the EU rules, the treaty does not come into force unless it has been endorsed by all 27 EU countries. This means that when one country does not ratify it, the document is dead letter. Or so it should be.
Our government's pressing ahead with the ratification means that they are either ignoring the Irish vote - a sign of disrespect towards the democratic choice of our neighbours - or they are disregarding the EU unanimity rule, asking us at the same time to entrust our future to a political entity that does not even abide by its own laws.
Hence a petition has been recently lodged on the Downing Street website: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Abandon-Lisbon asking the Prime Minister to respect the result of the Irish referendum and abandon the attempt to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. If you subscribe to its statement, please sign it!
Liberty, a philosopher wrote, is not a right but a risk to be run at every moment - on the political plane as well as in our private lives.
We trust that our PM will be strong enough and of good courage to take a 'risk' and accept the people's decision, because - after the treaty - there is the greater risk of neither him nor us having much left to decide upon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Photographic evidence

In our posts of 27 April and 05 May we provided photgraphic evidence from the 2002 underwater survey of the wreck of the Gaul showing damage to the closing arragement of the vessel's offal chute's inner covers. This evidence clearly contradicts the final conclusions of the 2004 Gaul RFI.
As previously advised, we are now presenting a video clip which contains further details on this subject, including a model of the offal chute's inner covers and their probable behaviour when subjected to seawater pressure.



Gaul - offal chute inner covers
Video sent by gadflymotion531

Friday, May 30, 2008

The doorkeepers

There is a parable in Kafka’s novel, The Trial, which begins with “Before the Law stands the doorkeeper” and tells about the difficulties that the “man from the country” has with the Law, to which he never gains access. This parable seems very relevant to what I have recently learned.
On the 20th of May I had a most interesting conversation with Mr Max Gold, the solicitor who represented the families of the Gaul crew in the 2004 RFI.
Mr Gold admitted that it did come out during the formal inquiry that the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul had a design defect, which meant that, in certain sea conditions, the vessel could take water on into the factory deck, loose stability and sink.
So, the families’ solicitor admitted that he knew all along that the loss of the Gaul had not been due to crew error, but due to a design defect.
As regards the compensation for the families of the deceased, Mr Gold made some extraordinary assertions:
  1. That, during the inquiry, the bereaved families had in fact been informed that the most probable cause of the tragedy was a design defect. (?!) (Obs. However, it appears to me that not all of them were informed.)
  2. That only a few of the families were "interested" in suing for compensation. (?!)
  3. That those who were interested in suing for compensation were advised by their barrister (Mr Tim Saloman, QC) that they stood no chance of getting any because of the limitation rules that exist on such claims. (?!) According to Mr Gold’s recollection, Mr Saloman’s expert opinion was that no action for compensation could be brought after the expiration of 15 years from the date of the victims’ death, no matter if the cause of the tragedy was only ‘discovered’ in 2004.
    (Obs. This opinion, as far as I have learned from independent advice, does not appear to be correct, the law being pretty straightforward in this respect.
    And, in any case, this could not have given any justification to the RFI panel to manipulate the results of a public inquiry
    .)
  4. That Mr Saloman’s written advice is confidential and I am therefore not entitled to receive a copy of his counsel. (?!)

I had more questions for Mr Gold, but he was in a hurry and promised to call me back towards the end of the week (i.e. last week.). Unfortunately, he never managed to.

(To be continued…)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Abuse of power

While the Minister for Transport is obstinately feigning innocence about the rigging of the Gaul RFI, we can assure you that some officials in the higher echelons of the Department for Transport and its agencies have already admitted that the Gaul Investigation was a sham.
In 2006, a well-meaning British official suggested to us that our indiscretions in respect of the Gaul RFI could only lead to deep regret. The wisdom was: why not enjoy instead the luxuries associated with a post abroad, secured by the mercy of the UK government, for as long as it lasts. (The belief at that time was that Tony Blair would sort out his business and resign early in 2007.) Speaking below his breath, another insider hinted that our prosperity would rise in proportion to our silence.
In the same year, a foreign official subtly let us know that we had been ranked as some kind of terrorists.The Home Office had apparently issued some Assistance Requests to various EU countries whose representatives were working in Brussels at that time. Our being classified as terrorists was possibly the expedient way of obtaining assistance in keeping a tab on us. (Home Secretary at the time was Charles Clarke and Jack Straw headed the Foreign Office)
Those foreigners who were aware of the situation seemed sympathetic and amazed that such abuses should happen. In their eyes, I am sure, the credibility of the Blair government must have suffered another blow as a result.
It is now time for these things to be made more widely known because, as a philosopher put it, “there is no defence against an evil which only the victims and the perpetrators know it exists.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

FV Trident

The Trident was a Peterhead-registered seine-net trawler which sank on 3 October 1974 with the loss of seven lives.
The first Formal Investigation into the sinking of the Trident held in Aberdeen, in 1975, found that the probable cause of the loss was that “Trident took aboard a sea or a succession of seas and foundered” and that “the precise causes of the casualty” were “unascertainable”, although design deficiencies relating to her stability could have contributed to her foundering.
The wreck of the Trident was discovered in 2001 thereupon the MAIB was able to collect and examine new material evidence in respect of her loss.
On 22 March 2002 (!), Stephen Byers, then Secretary of State for Environment and Transport, ordered the re-opening of the Formal Investigation.
In 2003, 2004 and 2006, further surveys were carried out.
The RFI is under the jurisdiction of the Advocate General for Scotland. Solicitor for the victims’ relatives is Max Gold (who also represented the families of the Gaul’s crew, during the 2004 RFI).
Today, 6 years since the decision to re-investigate the loss of the Trident was taken, the RFI is still nowhere near its conclusion.
Recently, the Department for Transport advised the victims’ families that the latest delays were related to the wave tank tests on a model of the vessel.
The Trident investigation, as was the case with the Gaul, bears commercial implications for the parties involved. We are curious to see how these are going to be dealt with.
We do not wish to presume anything untoward about anybody, but only hope that the delays in the Trident RFI are not caused by the government’s desire to see first which way the wind is blowing in the Gaul saga (and whatever else might come to light), and then decide on how to handle the Trident.

Friday, May 09, 2008

We DO want a referendum

A daring man, Mr Stuart Wheeler, is taking the government to court for having broken their promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and planning to drag us heels first into a complete and self-annihilating union with Europe.
As such legal proceedings can be very expensive, he is now in need of additional funds.
As this is a fight for our collective rights - to sovereignty and democratic rule - I hope that we'll be able to collectively contribute towards the associated costs.
Call it ransom for the captives, tax on freedom or charity - the money that you will donate could be the best money you will have ever spent.
Mr Wheeler's website can be accessed at: http://www.stuartwheeler.co.uk/.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Continuation from previous post

The damage to the forked lug (securing clip) of the offal chute lid, which is visible in the image below, indicates that the crew of the Gaul (prior to the loss of the vessel) had secured the inner covers in the closed position. The covers were subsequently damaged when the sea burst them open.

In the above detail, the normal outline of the forked securing clip was drawn in orange

This evidence clearly negates three of the principal conclusions of the RFI:
1. That proper use of the inner covers would have prevented water ingress
This is incorrect - the above photo indicates that the covers had been used ‘properly’ but, unfortunately, this could not prevent the water ingress.
2. That, at the time of the loss, the inner covers were not closed and secured
This is incorrect – the evidence indicates that not only had the covers been closed and secured at the time of the loss, but also that the forces of the sea subsequently opened them.
3. That, at the time of the loss, there was no physical reason to prevent the crew from closing and securing these covers
The photo shows clearly that the securing arrangements were physically damaged and as such could not be used to secure the covers. It is most likely that this damage occurred ‘at the time of the loss’
Besides, the inner covers were in no way strong enough to be watertight. If they had been, they would not have been damaged.

More to come...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another bent thing and more damning evidence

If the evidence we have published so far may have presented “an ostensibly compelling case”, to use Mr Jim Fitzpatrick’s expression from a recent letter, the evidence we will be publishing from now on should provide the Minister for Transport with extra certainty. As, in the same letter, he claimed that the information we presented did not constitute the whole picture – a claim with which, for probably different reasons, we agree - we have decided to show you more of that ‘picture’.
In previous posts we have already argued that the RFI assessment, that the inner lids of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul had been left open by the crew prior to the loss of the vessel, was unsound. The condition of the closing devices of the duff chute indicates that its inner cover was, in fact, closed when the tragedy struck.

We can now reveal that the split covers of the offal chute were also closed. The images below, captured from the 2002 underwater survey film footage, illustrate that the bar attached to one of the offal split covers, as their means of closure, was found in its place and deformed in a way consistent with it having undergone strong pressure from the underside.

This finding, which the RFI panel was aware of, supports the proposition that the inner lids of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul had initially been closed by the crew, but were burst open by the force of the incoming waves, at the time of the loss.


We have also constructed a model of the offal chute and tested it against the effects of water pressure acting on the underside of its inner lids. We used this model to replicate the damage to the securing bar, as observed in the images from the wreck of the Gaul. The photo below shows the result.

More to come...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

8 ½ Britain

We live in a surreal political climate, filled with the symbols and atmosphere of Fellini’s famous movie: 8 ½.



Fantasy overlaps reality. At one stage, we are offered the lurid details of Saraghina’s coarsely voluptuous dance on the beach; where, completely out of mind, she performs the rumba in exchange for a coin, tantalising the viewers with her flabby undulations and lascivious appetite.

Then we see the revolt in the harem, where a group of women rise in protest against the director – the man who hired them. In the end, they will be quelled with a bullwhip.
The main characters have unfinished scripts and start changing their roles. The production team gets restless while awaiting direction. The spirit of collaboration turns into internal strife, causing chaos and confusion. Money has been spent, but the sets are dormant. The director struggles to reconcile his vision with the frustrating dependence on external factors. Financial pressures, his staff’s egos and attacks from the press are compounding his problems. Anonymous characters - ordinary people - appear trapped in a traffic jam, going nowhere. The atmosphere gets gloomy.

Saraghina! The rumba!” and the fat woman emerges again from the ruins of a concrete bunker, displaying the vestiges of her fleshy charms and her insatiable lust for attention.

Guido, the film director can be seen floating high in the air, his ankle tethered by a rope, one end of which is being held firmly by the Screenwriter.

Don’t expect anything from the governing party; right now, they are busy performing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Esoterica

In a recent letter sent by the Department for Transport, Mr Jim Fitzpatrick, the Minister for Shipping, rather than answering our specific questions, took his turn in restating the government’s belief in the results of 2004 Gaul Formal Investigation.
This time round, however, he also claimed that that there was some additional evidence in support of the RFI conclusions - evidence that has never been publicised, which, for some reason, he assumes that we have not yet seen, and which, if it is to be attached any credence, will need to defy the observable facts.
This material was not revealed during the two Gaul formal inquiries, nor did it come to the knowledge of the naval architect who, as an employee of the MCA, has carried out research into the loss of the Gaul since 2002. The DfT claim that they are in possession of this ‘elusive’ evidence, but, alas, … they are not showing it.
Having wondered for almost four years, how the RFI panel had derived their conclusions – whether they had come from esoteric knowledge or from some nebulous fluffs – we are now being told that, basically, it was on this undisclosed evidence that the RFI findings were based. Hmm! Why bother then going through such expensive formal proceedings if that was really the case?
Our curiosity stirred, we would have liked to challenge Mr Fitzpatrick to show us the proof. After all, formal investigations are meant to be public affairs (with disclosure of all relevant facts), held in the public interest.
The Minister, however, seemed unwilling, and, anxious to put a stop to any further questions, he gravely informed us about the wishes of the deceased: “the crew of the Gaul should now be left to rest in peace, undisturbed by the speculation created by their dramatic disappearance”. We must not awake the ghosts and revive the sorrows of the past.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Six stages in the life of a New Labour politician


The first stage is, if we may call it so, the virginal stage - that is the season of grand promises, populist overtures and effusion. (In the FV Gaul inquiry saga, this would be the time when the families of the Gaul crew were promised a thorough and honest investigation of the tragedy.)
The second stage we would call the temptation and fall stage, which would correspond with the time when the Labour politician, now in power and overwhelmed with the giddiness of high office, succumbs to temptation, reneges on his promises and gives in to shabby compromise and complacency. (In the Gaul case this is the time when the 2004 RFI took place and when the Labour government, in response to pressures from various quarters as well as out of cynical calculation, decided to skew the investigation in a way that would bar any future claims for compensation)
The third stage is when the Labour politician, now hardened and over-confident in his luck, is eventually caught red-handed. I suggest we could call this juncture the awakening stage, because this is the point when the public realise whom they are dealing with. (This is when disclosures challenging the outcome the 2004 Gaul RFI were brought to the attention of the public)
The fourth stage, which we might call the denial stage or the period of ‘angelic pharisaism’, is the stage when our politician fights back trying to save his image. This is the time of quibbles, protestations of innocence, ‘national interest’ arguments, disinformation, lies and, eventually, stonewalling. (In relation to the Gaul, this is the period when, confronted with embarrassing evidence, the government kept re-asserting their innocence and their faith in the results of the 2004 RFI.)
The next stage, and the most distressing, could be called the decomposition stage. That means that, too much having been already revealed, the Labour politician has no longer any appearance to preserve and is therefore no longer bothered to cloak his inadequacy. The time has now come when, since there is no honour or legitimacy left to hang on to, our politician clings only to his chair, and from the armrests of this chair no one can unclench his fingers. This is also the time when the dirtiest weapons in his arsenal are pulled out. (In respect of the Gaul inquiry, this is where we are now)
The final stage …it’s up to the rest of us

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Elastic conclusions or the re-writing of history

In an earlier POST we already mentioned one embellishment contained in a paper produced by the experts in the 2004 Gaul RFI
In that same paper, drawn up as a summary of the results of the formal investigation, the experts also went a step beyond the official findings and stated with conviction:
“There was no logical reason why the duff and offal chute lids were secured in the open position, whilst dodging, other than crew error. It is also difficult to understand why the flap valves were jammed in the open position other than bad maintenance onboard or ashore.”
The authors were, of course, well aware of the fact that the offal chute lids had not been found secured in the open position. They were also aware that it was only around the duff chute lid that some kind of ‘ligature’ had been seen hanging and, therefore, one could not truthfully say that both the duff and the offal chute lids had been secured open by the crew of the Gaul.
The RFI final report, having been drawn up by better-versed legal minds, went only as far as advising that:
“In the case of the duff chute, the single lid was apparently secured in the open position by some form of ligature and in the case of the offal chute the split lid was found with the forward half open and the aft half closed, but not secured.”
The RFI experts must have also realised that any future interested parties would be more likely to read their free paper rather than the costly and voluminous RFI report, and that their words may therefore be taken as fact.
In the light our previous post and the above observations we would ask our readers the following question: What can one make of these exaggerations, which, it so happened, had the effect of adding undeserved weight to the Court’s ‘crew error’ verdict?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Clues and toggles

In continuation of our post of March 09, we are now publishing a DOCUMENT, which points to some differences and similarities in the ways in which the re-opened formal investigations (RFIs) into two major marine accidents: the MV Derbyshire and FV Gaul have been conducted and the reasons why the first was able to deliver better quality results than the second.
We considered the formal investigation into the loss of the MV Derbyshire, in which, initially, the Assessors wrongly concluded - on the basis of a rope seen emerging from the Bosun’s store hatch opening and of a simple examination of the disposition of that hatch’s toggles - that the loss of the vessel had been due to crew error.
In a curiously similar manner, the Gaul RFI also put the blame for the loss of the trawler on the crew, who, the RFI panel claimed, had neglected to close the inner covers to two openings in the hull - this time on the basis of a ligature apparently holding the vessel’s duff chute inner lid in the open position.
However, as the Derbyshire Assessors’ report had been made public two years prior to the RFI court hearings, their findings were openly examined and contested when appropriate and this allowed the court to arrive, in the end, at a set of different and more robust conclusions.
What is worthy of note here is that, in the Derbyshire RFI, it was the subsequent examination by independent experts of the condition and position of the Bosun’s hatch cover’s toggles that led to the rebuttal of the Assessors’ initial verdict of crew error.
Finally, the court concluded that the crew had not failed to secure the hatch lid and that the rope emerging from the Bosun’s store hatch opening was nothing more than post-casualty debris.
Unfortunately, despite the precedent provided by the Derbyshire inquiry, during the Gaul inquiry no external, independent examination of the case was allowed.
In the Gaul Investigation, the report of the Assessors, the retained experts and the court was presented at the end of the RFI as one final document, ‘set in stone’. Nonetheless, a mere glance at the position of the toggles, as shown by the underwater survey footage, suggests that the inner lids of both chutes on the Gaul had been initially closed.
Surprisingly, during the court hearings, neither the strongback bar (which, in conjunction with two toggles, secured the offal chute cover) nor the condition of the toggles was even mentioned.
In addition to and more intriguingly than this oversight is, however, the creative, ‘non-figurative’ manner in which the retained experts produced the drawings of the duff and offal chutes, in their supposedly as found’ condition.
The toggles, which in the underwater survey video footage are clearly shown to be in the ‘hatch closed’ position, appear on the experts’ drawings to be in the ‘hatch open’ position.



The unfortunate effect of these inaccuracies is that it can mislead subsequent examiners into concluding that, since all the toggles were found in the ‘open’ position on the wreck, the court’s finding that the crew had left the hatches open prior to the loss of the vessel is most likely correct.

More about it HERE

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Health and knowledge

Since we started this blog and the related Gaul website, almost two years ago, none of the experts in the 2004 RFI have deigned to comment or, in any way, express agreement or discontent with the technical propositions enunciated on these sites.
When a professional finds his opinions challenged or publicly criticised by his peers, he is normally prompted to reply either by defending his theories or by amending them. The experts in the Gaul RFI, by contrast, have buried themselves in silence, and although we have repeatedly tried to engage with them, they never replied. Don’t you find this odd?
The government didn’t even process the RFI recommendations, as customary after each major investigation, not as much because they were irrelevant, but for fear that the gilding will come off its findings at the slightest touch.

In contemporary Britain, it appears, truth is nothing more than an empty shell that can be filled with whatever meaning suits the government’s interests of the moment.
Strange events are left un-investigated, important questions are blithely ignored and, like the profane who must be prevented from defiling sacred knowledge, we are being taught to content ourselves with secrecy, half truths and disinformation.
It is best not to argue, the cynics recommend, because letting the humbug stuff you full of prunes is nowadays less harmful to your health than properly checking the facts.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Closed Inner Covers

In our post of 18 February 2007 we discussed the conclusion of the 2004 Gaul RFI, which stated that the inner covers of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul had been left open by the crew – an act of negligence that cost them their lives.
The only ‘evidence’ that the panel relied upon to back their deduction was hanging, literally, by a thread.
Moreover, we can now add, the underwater survey images show that there is a strong possibility that the inner covers had actually been closed and secured by the crew prior to the loss of the vessel.
The attached DOCUMENT explains in more detail how the state (i.e. position and damage) in which the fittings used to secure the inner covers closed (i.e. toggles and lugs) were found at the time of the underwater survey indicates that the covers could have burst open under the pressure of the seawater coming in through the open outer flaps.
Surprisingly, the RFI documents do not mention but once, and in passing, these closing arrangements that were, in effect, at the very centre of the problem area identified by the investigation.
More to come...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Wilful Ignorance

When they’ve finished filling in their various questionnaires, the Fraud Squad detectives set about catching criminals.
But, how do they perform this task? Do they go out into the street, copping people at random? No, of course not! They employ logic.
The unfortunate thing, however, is that their logic can sometimes take the shape of the politicised Heads of the Met.
In our previous posts we reported on the progress made by the Fraud Squad in response to our fraud complaint. Today, we are able to provide you with an exciting update:
After 11 months of rumination, the Met detectives were finally able to shout Eureka, as they found an answer to our concerns, and a simple one at that.
In a letter signed by a Detective Chief Inspector of the Fraud Squad, we were informed that the design fault on the Gaul - which, we contended, could have competed as a more likely cause for the loss of the vessel than crew negligence, had evidence of this fault not been withheld – was, in fact, recognised by the 2004 RFI and duly mentioned in the final report, at paras 2.44 –2.49.
How extraordinary! The naval architect, who has been carping about the final report to the RFI and its findings for more than two years now, never realised that the Investigation Panel had in fact agreed with him.
How could he have missed the meaning of those six vital paragraphs, which the Met detectives’ perspicacity identified as proof that the RFI panel didn’t keep shtum about the design fault in question?
Well, the truth of the matter is that the above-mentioned paragraphs[1] refer, in fact, only to:
  1. a calculation error in the design of the chutes, the unfortunate significance of which being, nevertheless, overlooked (see DESIGN ERROR 2 document);

  2. a mention of the fact that the vessel owners had annotated the drawing of the chute with the statement “the design of the watertight hopper hatch cover was “too fiddly” " – statement endorsed by the final report despite being factually incorrect;

  3. the unrealistic notion that the one inch square section of the steel hinge spindles would have become rounded with normal use (while, in the same paragraph, the experts advise that they had visited the Gaul’s 29 year old sister vessel on which, the same type of spindle had not, even by that time, become rounded);

  4. a suggestion that the design of the hinges would have “inevitably resulted in corrosion within the brass gland” - in fact the ‘brass gland’ referred to therein was a sintered bronze, self lubricating, bearing, and

  5. a statement that the flaps could not be maintained without destroying them, which, as we explained HERE as well as in this POST and on page 22 of the TECHNICAL REPORT, was pure misconception.

Nowhere in the report is it mentioned that the non-return flaps opened the wrong way round (a major DESIGN FAULT) and, therefore, would have failed to act as the principal strength barrier against seawater flooding, as they were supposed to. And that is the crux of the matter. Plain as daylight.

To claim otherwise is brazenly insincere, similar to saying that white is black and black is white.

When questioned about these inadvertences, the DCI professed ignorance of the details of the case, passing the buck to the lowest rank: i.e. a constable in his squad.

(To be continued)
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[1] A copy of paras 2.44 –2.49 is provided at THIS LINK

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pressure Sores

The newspapers have recently informed us that "irresistible pressures” ended an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into alleged high-level bribery and corruption. In the strange WMD intelligence dossier case, as well as in several other notable affaires, the same sort of pressures seem to have played their part, blocking inquiries or driving them towards a convenient, pre-ordained outcome.
These histories bring to mind the “pressures” applied on the protagonists in another failed governmental investigation: the 2004 Gaul RFI. I recall now that, following the publication of the Gaul RFI final report, a participant in the formal investigation commented that the Wreck Commissioner (justice David Steel) seemed to have his own agenda when probing the reasons for the tragedy; the implication being that outside “pressures” might have weighed upon His Honour more than the available evidence and testimonies.
Having tried for almost two years now to have the conclusions of the 2004 RFI re-examined, we have realised that the bodies responsible for dealing with the concerns that had been raised also seemed to be under some kind of nocuous “pressures” from which they couldn't escape.

Pressures, as we know from the laws of physics, can be harmful to a body when they outbalance the body’s ability to stand firm. Therefore, so as to prevent injury to our public bodies we must either restrain these terrible forces, or, somehow, invigorate the former’s ability to resist and respond.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Corruption

"The word corruption means something spoiled: something sound that has been made defective, debased, and tainted; something that has been pushed off course into a worse or inferior form. Whoever corrupts sets out to make something impure and less capable, an adverse departure from an expected course.
When applied to human relations, corruption is a bad influence, an injection of rottenness or decay, a decline in moral conduct and personal integrity attributable to venality or dishonesty. When applied to public office, rather than referring to departures from ideal or even generally expected standards of incumbent behavior, the practice has been to spell out specific acts of misconduct that disgrace public office and make the offenders unfit to remain there."

"Corruption leads to a breakdown in shared concerns and results in factional pursuit of special interests and a reliance on coercion over consensus.
Indeed, reliance on coercion indicates a corrupt or corrupted state, perverted and rotten, where every person is on guard against everyone else in a society of amoral familism." (Where Corruption Lives, 2001, Corruption and Governance, Gerald E. Caiden)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The judge

Justice Steel, the Wreck Commissioner in the 2004 Gaul RFI, his term having recently expired, has stepped down from the Presidency of the Commercial Court.
In spite of our tenacious attempts, we have never managed to establish a direct contact with His Honour, as he has been very agile at avoiding us.
There is sparse data in the public domain about the life and career of justice Steel, so, for your information, we can only provide an extract from Who’s Who 2006 catalogue:
STEEL, Hon. Sir David (William), Knighted in 1998; Hon Mr Justice Steel; a judge of the High Court of Justice, since 1998; Presiding Judge, Western Circuit, since 2002; born 7 May 1943; son of Lincoln Steel and late Barbara (née Goldschmidt); [In January 1998, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine, Tony Blair’s former mentor) he was appointed High Court Judge]; Judge Admiralty Court 1998-; Judge Commercial Court 1998-; a Wreck Commissioner for England and Wales 1982-1998; Chairman, Commercial Bar Association, 1990-1991; Member, Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct, 1994-1998; Chairman, OUBC Trust Fund Committee, 1990-1993

Mr Steel has represented the Government on a number of memorable occasions:

In 1987, he represented the Department of Transport and had conduct of the Formal Investigation into the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster at Zeebrugge. (188 lives lost with the casualty attributed to serious negligence by the crew)

In 1989, he again represented the Department of Transport and had conduct of the Formal Investigation into the loss of the MV Derbyshire. (44 lives lost with the vessel considered to have been overwhelmed by the forces of nature – not a design fault as alleged by the families of the victims)

Mr Steel’s involvement in the Gaul legal case started in 1978 when A.M. Jackson & Co., Solicitors for the Insurance Company, engaged Michael Thomas QC and David Steel to advise on the defence on the negligence charge that had been brought against the Gaul Owners and Builders.[1],[2]
In 2000, the guiding hand of fate brought David Steel once again at the epicentre of the Gaul saga - this time as Wreck Commissioner in the Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI).
The victims’ families - I have been informed - as if possessed by a sombre premonition, tried to recuse him from the RFI on the basis of his previous involvement in the case.
However, although it is stated in law that a judge can be recused by opposition of either party or disqualify himself on grounds of prejudice or personal involvement, and despite the fact that there were certainly many others capable of sitting as Wreck Commissioner for the Investigation, the families’ resistance to justice Steel’s appointment did not succeed, and they had to contend themselves with the Commissioner chosen by the government.

Having always held the judges of this country in some kind of veneration, after our disclosures, we expected Sir David to show some last-minute sympathy towards the idea of putting right what he had obviously let go wrong. As Admiralty judge and head of for the 2004 Investigation, he was in a good position to recommend a re-opening of the case.

We were, however, to be disappointed: justice Steel decided to hide and stay quiet.
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[1] The Loss of the Motor Trawler Gaul, by John Nicklin, 1998
[2] The owner of the shipyard in 1978 was British Shipbuilders (a State Corporation), hence Mr Steel was effectively acting for the Government of the day (i.e. Labour)