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Top lawyer deciding if lifeboat saga inquiry is needed

Top lawyer deciding if lifeboat saga inquiry is needed

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Top lawyer deciding if lifeboat saga inquiry is needed

Tuesday 22 June 2021

It is still unclear if a committee of inquiry will be held into the 2017 lifeboat dispute, which resulted in an independent service breaking away from Jersey's RNLI.

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 in March.

The Government has declined to give any information on the name of the QC, any terms of reference, and the precise timescale and cost of the initial review.

A spokesperson simply said: “The evidence is now being considered by an independent QC, who will define the scope of any future piece of work. As independent work is now underway, the Chief Minister will not comment further.”

The breakdown in relations between the charity 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.

The JLA now operate a parallel service to the RNLI, both coordinated by the Ports of Jersey-run Coastguard.

JLA Jersey lifeboat association ben shenton paul battrick

Pictured: The launch of the Jersey Lifeboat Association.

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.

Video: The RNLI's all-weather lifeboat leaving to go to Poole in November 2017.

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.

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’.

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