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19th April 2024, 20:35

Verdict of 'Unlawful Killing' against two former RGP officers quashed on Appeal

Published by GBC News

The two former RGP officers involved in the Collision at Sea incident in March 2020 in which two Spanish Nationals died, have had the verdict quashed on Appeal.

The Judgement, handed down today, successfully overturned the 2021 Coroner's finding of "Unlawful Killing" which had been upheld in judicial review last year.

The Appeal Court ruled that the Coroner's directions to the jury were "deeply flawed" and said a fresh Inquest should consider the evidence.

Last year's Judicial Review of the 2021 "Unlawful Killing" verdict found there had been some misdirection by the Coroner to the Jury.

The Appeal Court disagreed with the Chief Justice's conclusions that it would not have affected the outcome of the inquest.

The RGP took part in that review, adopting what Mr Justice Dudley described at the time as being an "adversarial" posture which "directed at upholding the original verdict."

The Court of Appeal judgement says although it's impossible to say if a properly directed jury would come to the same conclusion, it's in the interests of justice for the evidence to be heard at a fresh inquest.

In the early hours of the 8th March 2020, a Royal Gibraltar Police Vessel gave chase to two men in a RHIB suspected of carrying illegal cargo. It resulted in a collision in Spanish Waters and the deaths of two men.

The Appeal Court considered a number of key points, including whether those in the RHIB were owed a duty of care by the crew of the RGP vessel, and whether the risk of death was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the way the RHIB was handled.

The original "Unlawful Killing" verdict was quashed on three grounds:

Firstly, the Coroner's errors in identifying the scope of the duty of care for the purposes of gross negligence manslaughter. Appeal Judge Sir Maurice Kay said a duty of care is always a duty to take care, as is reasonable in the circumstances.

He also rejected the Chief Justice's view that given the collision occurred in Spanish Waters, it was beyond the RGP officers' jurisdiction, who not having the power of arrest, were no longer acting in execution of their duty - even if they believed they were in Gibraltar Waters. The Appeal Court considered this retrospective analysis to be manifestly wrong, and that consideration should have been given to the actions taken at the time, and in the circumstances.

The second ground upheld was the Coroner's insufficient and misleading explanation to the Jury of what constitutes a breach of duty.

Thirdly, that the Coroner had regrettably misdirected the jury on the issue of "serious and obvious risk of death". Again, the judgement said it was wrong of the Chief Justice to use the benefit of hindsight in his Judicial Review.

It says "An obvious risk is a present risk which is clear and unambiguous, not one which might become apparent on further investigation."

Sir Nigel Davis said it could not have been foreseen that the collision could take the horrific and fatal form it did.

He said given that the directions to the jury were not properly marshalled, balanced or legally accurate, he agreed that justice requires there should be a fresh appeal.

You can find the judgement here: https://www.gcs.gov.gi/judgments/officer-1-and-officer-2-v-his-majestys-coroner-for-gibraltar-and-ors-2024gca007-815