Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Another Act of Suppression

Two stories came together today which demonstrate dramatically why one of them should make us profoundly concerned about the other.

In Sunderland, a coroner blamed "systematic failures" within the Royal Navy for the death of two young English sailors, killed when an oxygen generator exploded aboard HMS Tireless in March 2007.

A chemical oxygen 'candle' which they had just ignited had been so carelessly stored and mishandled during the previous months that it was contaminated with oil, effectively turning it into a powerful bomb which exploded on being lit. The inquest heard how a batch of almost 1,000 Self Contained Oxygen Generators (SCOGs) were taken out of a hazardous waste depot in Plymouth and returned to Royal Navy stocks a year before the accident. Paperwork was altered to classify them as safe to use.

The coroner condemned what he called a 'culture of complacency' within the Navy over the handling of SCOGs, which are used to generate oxygen on board submarines. In particular he criticised the MoD civil servant who made the decision to move hundreds of SCOGs out of the hazardous waste depot in order cut costs. Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth today offered his 'unreserved apologies' to the bereaved families for the 'avoidable failings, for which this department is responsible, which brought about this tragic incident.'

Meanwhile, the House of Commons was muling over its decision last night to allow inquests to be held in private and without a jury in "sensitive" circumstances, such as those where "national security" is at stake. A number of Labour MPs voted against the measure, and the government's majority was cut to 34.

Inquests into armed forces deaths are clearly a pain in the neck to the government, as are inquests into deaths which occur in prison or at the hands of the police. It simply defies belief that the government will not attempt to use this legislation at some point in order to sweep potentially damaging or embarrassing deaths under the carpet. This gives the State the ability to kill you and not even have a proper inquest. They can, essentially, mark their own homework. Or handywork.

Think just how much the government would have loved to have held the inquest of Jean Charles de Menezes in private, or the inquests into the deaths of Corporal Mark William Wright (where the coroner said that those responsible should "hang their heads in shame") or Fusilier Gordon Gentle, who died because he didn't have the right equipment. To name but three.

If we're responsible for someone's death we can expect to be held accountable. Does the same apply to the State ? Don't count on it; we may never know.

No comments: