Tragedy followed by litigation
After suffering the tragic loss of both his girlfriend and friend (while diving The Blue Hole off Malta’s island, Gozo) in June 2015; BSAC diver, Stephen Martin, has been living with the prospect of being extradited from the United Kingdom to Malta on charges of involuntary manslaughter. On Monday, a mere two days before he was to appeal at the High Court in London against a request to extradite him to the Mediterranean isle, all charges were dropped.
The diving world was in shock when the bizarre charges were brought against Stephen almost 20 months ago. The events of that fateful day were ruled as accidental deaths by Brighton and Hove coroner’s court in February 2015. However a Maltese magisterial inquiry was held without Mr Martin’s input or presence, resulting in involuntary manslaughter charges being levied against him.
This dramatic turnaround came about after BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) representatives met with the Malta Attorney General and appealed for all charges to be dropped. BSAC chief executive, Mary Tetley said: ‘The decision today brings to an end the horrendous ordeal which Stephen has suffered since he was charged, and we are both delighted and relieved for him.’
‘We remain dismayed that these charges were ever brought in the first place as a UK coroner had already ruled the deaths a tragic accident.‘ Never in BSACs 63-year history have criminal charges like this have been brought against BSAC divers relating to a diving fatality or accident. ‘It is a victory for common sense that these charges have now been dropped, allowing Stephen to move on with his life, and grieve in peace.‘
Diver’s legal responsibilities
As scuba divers we are all aware that our sport is considered to be high risk. Our training makes us keenly aware of the potential risks that our much loved recreational pursuit holds. We acknowledge that we are personally responsible for the risks we choose to take and accept the potential consequences.
The best we can do is dive within our limits, dive our plan and remember our training. Fortunately for Stephen he was affiliated with a great organisation, BSAC, who provided invaluable support in his time of need. Would your training agency come to your aid in similar circumstances? Possibly not, especially if getting P-A-I-D is their only real concern. The very least we can do is ensure we have full and up-to-date scuba diving and travel insurance.
Questions to ponder
Is this a once off incident or should we be looking into liability insurance to cover the costs of possible litigation? Will we be placed in the awkward position of asking our friends and family to sign personal injury liability release agreements before taking the plunge into the realms of the blue?
At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a need to panic and take on the services of lawyers…