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No deadline for eight-month-long lifeboat review

No deadline for eight-month-long lifeboat review

Tuesday 09 November 2021

No deadline for eight-month-long lifeboat review

Tuesday 09 November 2021

A review into whether a committee of inquiry should be held into the 2017 lifeboat dispute – launched in March - is still ongoing, with no deadline set for a decision.

Giving an update on progress in response to questions from Express, a Government spokesperson said: “The review is still ongoing and there is no date for its completion at the moment.”

A UK-based QC is currently reviewing evidence to see if a full inquiry is justified, having been asked to do so by the Chief Minister eight months ago.

One hurdle could be that Jersey law does not currently provide for public inquiries. An official consultation is open, which closes on 1 December, asking for the public to comment on whether the island should have a Public Inquiries Law, which would compel people to testify if called.

The UK introduced its ‘Private Inquiries Act’ in 2005.

The breakdown in relations between the RNLI and some of its crew, including St. Helier coxswain Andy Hibbs, led to the creation of the Jersey Lifeboat Association, which now has its own all-weather and inshore boats.

Pictured: The Jersey Lifeboat Association has a new berth for its inshore boat in the Harbour.

This in addition to the RNLI’s own vessels, which are based in St. Helier and St. Catherine.

The origin of the bitter dispute was allegedly two crew mates falling out over a relationship with a woman, which led to a souring of relations between the St. Helier and St. Catherine crews.

However, this escalated with other incidents exacerbating the breakdown in relations, between crews and also between Mr Hibbs and the RNLI.

This included disagreements over which boats should tow back vessels and whether the lifeboat had the necessary permission to launch.

Mr Hibbs was sacked by the RNLI in April 2017 but was reinstated three months later following an internal investigation, with the Institute apologising to the coxswain but saying there was “fault on both sides”.

That November, Mr Hibbs and his crew resigned en masse, saying that they were seeking to set up an independent service. Following this, the RNLI closed its St. Helier station and removed its all-weather vessel to Poole, although it later reopened.

An independent report by Guernsey's Harbourmaster published in March 2018 found that there had been a “toxic culture” at the station due to a “lack of leadership” by the RNLI.

Pictured: The RNLI has built up new crews in St. Helier following the 2017 dispute.

That month, the States Assembly decided not to set up a committee of inquiry, with ministers saying that it would only “prolong the animosity” and tell the Assembly “what it already knew”.

Today, politician and former RNLI crew member Steve Luce reiterated his view that a new inquiry would be "totally unnecessary".

"Lifesaving in Jersey is stronger now than it has been for many years, and I cannot see a single benefit of carrying out a review. We need to move on," he said.

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Posted by nigel pearce on
Would a review achieve anything other than re-opening old wounds?
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