Dishonest, evasive, lacking integrity – Scots QC damned after ferry tragedy

A SCOTTISH QC has been slated in a leaked report into a maritime disaster that killed 74 people, mainly women and children, off the coast of Tonga.

Among those who drowned when the MV Princess Ashika sank last August was 48-year-old Daniel MacMillan from Islay. His body was one of only two recovered from the wreck.

Lord Ramsay Dalgety QC – secretary of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia which operated the government-owned ferry – has been described by Tonga's Royal Commission of Inquiry as "unfit to hold such an important position", "lacking credibility" and accused of being "evasive when giving evidence".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The commission also said the former director of Scottish Opera was "dishonest and lacked integrity in his role".

The final report details "unimaginable and careless errors by people in positions of responsibility".

It also says the sinking was the result of systemic and individual failures and that the deaths were both "preventable and senseless".

Lord Dalgety, 64, was arrested, charged with perjury, and put under house arrest for 24 hours on his last day of giving evidence to the committee in February. Tonga, a monarchy, imposed a blackout on reporting the case. Two others had been arrested earlier.

He has been strongly criticised for failing to order an independent survey before the purchase of the ferry, which he admitted to the commission in January had been a "rust bucket".

The report criticised Lord Dalgety's lack of competence in admiralty law, in which he said he was a specialist. It described as "disturbing" the fact that he did not have an up-to-date copy of the Shipping Act and admitted he had not "checked it for years".

The report states: "He considered that he was very experienced in admiralty law and company law matters. As company secretary, he understood that when performing his duties, he was to exercise reasonable care, diligence and skill.

"He was aware that there were numerous offences if owners or operators failed to protect the safety of life at sea.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He 'overlooked' that the definition of owner under the Shipping Act effectively covered an operator such as the Shipping Corporations of Polynesia."

The investigators said that Lord Dalgety's response and justification for failing to look at the Shipping Act "were nothing short of completely embarrassing".

A claim by officials that the vessel was in good condition or well maintained "is not only patently absurd, but dishonest", the report said. It notes the ferry was "grossly overloaded" the day it sank.

Lord Dalgety, a former Conservative councillor on Edinburgh District Council, moved to Tonga in 1991. In 2008, King George Tupou V made him a law lord and privy counsellor with the title Lord Dalgety of Sikotilani Tonga – Lord Dalgety of Scotland.

Lord Dalgety holds a number of powerful and well-paid posts in Tonga, including chairman of the electricity commission.

The royal commission said it considered evidence regarding civil responsibility, but that determining criminal responsibility was up to other authorities. Police have said their investigations are continuing.

Meanwhile, the Tongan king is under pressure to sack members of government amid allegations they were in part to blame for the failures that led to the tragedy.