Scottish QC is cleared of perjury over South Pacific ferry tragedy

A SCOTTISH QC has been cleared of perjury in relation to a ferry disaster in the South Pacific.

Lord Ramsay Dalgety, who moved to Tonga in 1991, was accused of giving false evidence into the 2009 sinking in which 74 people died.

However, at a court hearing yesterday, the case against Lord Dalgety was thrown out due to insufficient evidence, according to reports from Radio New Zealand International and the Matangi Tonga newspaper. Lord Dalgety appeared in court in 
relation to the sinking of the MV Princess Ashika in August 2009, the worst accident in the country’s maritime history.

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Among those who drowned was Scot Daniel MacMillan, 48, from Islay.

Lord Dalgety, a former director of Scottish Opera, was secretary of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia which operated the government-owned ferry. He was accused of playing down his involvement in the corporation during the official inquest into the tragedy.

Lord Dalgety was described by Tonga’s Royal Commission of Inquiry as “unfit to hold such an important position”, “evasive” and “lacking credibility”.

The former Edinburgh councillor was also criticised for failing to order an independent survey before the purchase of the ferry, which he admitted had been a “rust-bucket”.

Lord Dalgety was charged with perjury and put under house arrest on his last day of giving evidence to the committee in February 2010.

But yesterday authorities on the island cleared him.

Justice Charles Cato said that Lord Dalgety’s words were so far removed from the vital issues the commission had to consider concerning the tragic ferry crash, that he did not think a guilty verdict would be safe.

“It is my view that the charges of perjury must be made out plainly and that is not the case here,” he added.

“I rule that the Crown had failed to reach the level required under the legal standards I must apply and accordingly I discharge Lord Dalgety from the indictment.”

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Lord Dalgety was appointed a Scottish QC in 1986 and has been a Tonga law lord since 2008.

He suffered the loss of wife Mary, also from Scotland, who died this week.

Originally from Edinburgh, her obituary said she died “suddenly” in Vaiola Hospital in the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa on Sunday.

Described as the “adored mum of Caroline and Neil”, her funeral was held in Tonga on Wednesday with a memorial service to take place in Edinburgh on a date to be confirmed.

The kingdom of Tonga, is a group of 176 islands with a population of just over 100,000 people.

Only 52 of these islands are inhabited by people.

The islands stretch a distance of 500 miles wide and are found off of New Zealand’s East coast.

Tonga became known as the “Friendly Islands” in 1773 when Captain James Cook first visited the tropical island.