3 Nov 2010

Tonga Crown expected to appeal Ashika ruling

7:56 am on 3 November 2010

The Crown in Tonga is expected to appeal a controversial decision to quash the charges brought against the first person charged in relation to the sinking of the Princess Ashika.

Perjury charges against Ramsay Robertson Dalgety, a Scotsman who had been made a law lord by King George Tupou the 5th, were thrown out on a technicality.

Don Wiseman reports from Nuku'alofa.

"Lord Dalgety, a former judge, was a key figure in the inquiry into the ferry tragedy. A supposed expert in maritime law he was secretary of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia which operated a vessel that the inquiry quickly established was unseaworthy and not capable of operating in Tongan waters. He faced extensive criticism at the inquiry for failing to ensure that a proper survey of the vessel was completed. The commission also called him evasive and questioned his legal competence. The perjury concerned evidence he had given at the inquiry, but the charges were quashed by Justice Robert Shuster who ruled the indictment was defective because it wasn't signed or dated by a responsible court official. He also said an amended indictment couldn't be put because of that original defect. The Crown countered that this has not been a requirement in Tonga courts in the past. It's expected to appeal the decision."