Geoffrey Cox continues the fight for Justice for local man
23rd May 2012
My duties as an MP are numerous: scrutinising government legislation, contributing to policy development, trying to help individual constituents with a wide range of individual problems, and campaigning to give a strong voice to our local interests, unique to Torridge and West Devon. However, every so often, a special case comes along that seems to fall through all the safety nets which have developed over time to ensure a fair and just society, and my role, as your MP, is to bring particular attention to it in parliament.
Earlier this year, having explored every legal avenue available, including a successful civil court case, a constituent contacted me to ask for my help. She told me about her brother, John, a local man, a yacht delivery skipper. John had been working for a company that delivers yachts across the world for both private and commercial clients. In December 2006, on his first trip as skipper, John and his two crew members were lost at sea during a hurricane off the coast of Oregon, USA. My constituent believed that the three men died because they were forced by the company to put to sea up the Oregon coast against their better judgement and experience. She alleged that they had been threatened with non-payment by their employer, instructed to go to sea and misinformed about the weather conditions.
She showed me a trail of emails that were sent between John and his employer, which supported this. The emails showed a disturbing disregard for the care and safety of John and his crew. He was refused permission to take a different route which would avoid hurricane activity, refused permission to lay the yacht up in San Francisco until after the bad weather and when he challenged this and requested support, he was told that he had ‘attitude’. This was not the first time a skipper and his crew had been lost while employed at sea by the same company.
The family had already successfully brought a civil action against the company in the Admiralty Court, Royal Courts of Justice with the help of her own lawyers. The court in its judgment had condemned the practice and negligence of the employer. However, because the Catshot yacht the crew was sailing was foreign registered, my constituent has been told that neither the Maritime Coastguard Agency nor the the Crown Prosecution Service are able to take enforcement action, bring criminal proceedings following the deaths of the seamen or even to prevent the company from setting up again under a new name.
On Wednesday, I brought my constituent's case before the House of Commons in an adjournment debate. I was able to highlight the fact that such utter disregard for the safety and wellbeing of employees would never be tolerated of companies operating on land. I drew attention to how the same directors of this company are free to continue even now to operate their business, putting at risk other seamen, and I demanded that the Government take action to rectify this.
This is only the first step in trying to address this sad situation. The Transport Minister responsible for maritime regulation has agreed to meet with the family to discuss the matter further. Nothing will restore John to his sister and family, but through the mechanisms available in parliament, we may be able to prompt the government to make sure that no other family suffers a similar loss.
To read the debate in full click here: | Hansard