HC Deb 09 March 1876 vol 227 cc1712-4

asked the Lord Advocate, Whether his attention has been called to the conduct of the Crown authorities at Greenock, consequent on the collision of the "Amelia" with the quay, whereby one man was killed, on which occasion the pilot, having been precognosced by the Procurator Fiscal, was afterwards called by the Solicitor representing the Board of Trade, and gave evidence at an inquiry, without being cautioned or warned, and was immediately afterwards committed, at the instance of the criminal authorities, on a charge of culpable homicide; and, whether he will take steps to prevent one public Department inducing a man to give evidence on which another Department may commit him for trial, in accordance with the declaration of the President of the Board of Trade, who recently, in the case of the "Strathclyde," stated that no official inquiry could take place until the criminal trial consequent on the verdict of the coroner's jury had been completed?


I have made inquiries into the circumstances referred to in the Question of the hon. Member for Greenock. It appears that on the 20th January last the steamer Amelia came into collision with the quay at Greenock, when one man was killed and another injured. A Board of Trade inquiry was ordered, and took place on the 3rd and 4th February. The master of the steamer, Captain Campbell, and the pilot, James Hendry, were examined as witnesses by the solicitor for the Board of Trade. I have no doubt it is correct that neither of these persons was cautioned or warned by the presiding justices, of whom I understand the hon. Gentleman himself was one. The result of the inquiry was that the master was admonished, but his certificate was, under the circumstances, returned to him. The Court of Inquiry had no jurisdiction over the pilot, who was a river pilot, and they did not deal with him. At the conclusion of the inquiry, a charge of culpable homicide was made by the Crown authorities against the pilot, and the investigation is still going on under the directions of Crown counsel. The proceedings were not taken in consequence of the evidence given at the Board of Trade inquiry, and if a trial takes place that evidence cannot be, and certainly will not be, used against the pilot. I cannot, however, give any undertaking that if a Board of Trade inquiry takes place in regard to a casualty involving loss of life, the magistrates presiding at which had no jurisdiction to inflict any or adequate punishment upon the persons responsible for such casualty, I shall hold myself, as public prosecutor, precluded from taking the necessary steps for having these persons tried before the ordinary criminal tribunal. I regret that the pilot was not warned or cautioned when he gave his evidence at the Board of Trade inquiry; but that was an omission for which the Crown authorities were not responsible, and of which they certainly will take no advantage.