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


"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.
[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)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another piece of misleading evidence

An important plank in the Attorney General’s case against the crew of the Gaul was the instilled notion that they were not experienced in operating trawlers fitted with hull openings for the discharge of fish processing waste.

The case made was that, because the crew had no experience of such ships, they would not have been able to appreciate the importance of such openings in relation to the vessel’s stability and watertight integrity. Their subsequent ‘errors’ in not maintaining the duff and offal chute’s flaps and ‘forgetting’ to close the inner covers could thus be more readily explained.

The Attorney General’s team developed this theme throughout the course of the hearings (see extracts from the transcripts of evidence in the DOCUMENT ATTACHED), and even went as far as providing a detailed general arrangement drawing for the freezer trawler Cassio (Appendix 7 of the final report), which showed, they said, that duff and offal chutes had not been fitted on that vessel.

A small point to note:

A ship’s general arrangement drawing carries a level of detail that is decided by the draughtsman with clarity, aesthetical and presentational aspects being important considerations. The general arrangement drawing that was presented as evidence to the Gaul RFI merely confirmed that duff and offal chute openings had not been indicated on that drawing, it did not confirm that they had not been provided on the vessel.

In a 1966 photograph of the Othello, possibly on sea trials, its duff and offal discharges, cut in the hull on the port side, can be seen just aft of the funnel and near to the waterline.

The freezer stern trawlers Cassio, Othello and Orsino were sister vessels, built by Yarrows of Glasgow in 1966. The Gaul’s Skipper, Peter Nellist, sailed on both the Cassio and the Orsino, while the Mate, Maurice Spurgeon, had sailed on the Othello immediately prior to joining the Gaul on her last voyage.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tony Blair manages to unite the peoples of Europe and beyond

The European Tribune has published an online petition Petition against the nomination of Tony Blair as President of the European Council:

Friday, February 08, 2008

Marking the day

8 February - the day when the Gaul and 36 lives were lost

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lack of strength

We have previously mentioned that the inner covers of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul were not designed to be of watertight standard. Our post of 24 September 2007 states that the inner covers of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul were not watertight, nor were they supposed to be so, and, even closed, they could not have been relied upon to maintain the watertight integrity of the vessel.
We would now like to explain that the main reason why the inner covers on the Gaul were not of a ‘watertight’ standard is because they were deficient in strength.That is the hinges, toggle bolts and steel lugs – the only parts of the covers, which provided the strength or resistance against the forces of the sea – were inadequate.
The paper published HERE gives the details.
More to come…

Monday, February 04, 2008

The rust

In our previous posts of 30 January 2007 and 9 April 2007 (incl. the ADDITIONAL DATA document) as well as our TECHNICAL REPORT etc., we explained in detail why it was unlikely that the non-return flaps of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul should have both been seized in the open position, due to corrosion, at the time when the vessel was lost.
The hinge assemblies of the non-return flaps contained oilite low-maintenance bearings (oil impregnated sintered bronze), which were designed for the life of the vessel and not just for the 18 months period that was the lifespan of the Gaul.
Furthermore, the extracts from the underwater survey footage presented in our 30 January post showed clearly that, even after 28 years under the sea, other structures on the Gaul, which used the same combination of materials as the flaps’ hinges, worked without problem.
Now, we are adding the statements of two witnesses who had sailed on the Gaul on her previous voyages including the last but one.
Skipper Suddaby, whom we mentioned earlier on this site, tells us in his recently published book, at page 167 that: “I believe firmly that both chutes were in perfect working order right up to the time that the Gaul was lost” and that: “there is no report of the Gaul crew having trouble dumping the duffs back”.
Also, Mr. Petty, who had been the mate of the Gaul from 18 September 1973 to January 1974, when questioned under oath during the RFI, gave the following answers:
“Q. Can you remember using that hopper on the last trip you were on when you were with Mr. Suddaby?
A. What, the Gaul?
Q. Yes.
A. Yes.
Q. What was its condition at that time, can you remember? Was it working or was --
A. It was all working, yes, everything was working perfect.
Q. Did you ever have any problems with it or did the men have any problems where it seized up and so would not open when they threw duffs on it?
A. Never. That is the gospel truth, never.” (Transcripts of evidence, day 2 page 46)
The RFI conclusions, however, stated that the non-return flaps of the chutes were seized in the open position when the vessel left Hull on her last voyage (See RFI final report, page 286).If the chutes had been working perfectly well and smoothly during the Gaul’s first four voyages, as the witnesses testified, how could the RFI panel expect the public to believe that they were seized with corrosion when the vessel left Hull at the start of her fifth and last voyage? [1]
The RFI panel of experts and justice Steel should perhaps explain to us why they chose to flagrantly ignore all these facts and testimonies and go for the ‘rust theory’, in support of which they had no proper evidence.
[1] The question of why two separate mechanisms, which had been appropriately engineered for the marine environment, which would have been fully greased and lubricated at the vessel’s delivery, which had different operating cycles and which were operated by two separate teams of ship personnel, should both seize in the fully open position due to corrosion and at approximately the same time, is rather intriguing.
As the RFI panel was informed during the investigation, it is far more likely that the non-return valves shared some fault in their DESIGN, which manifested itself during the severe weather conditions that the vessel encountered prior to its loss.