In a meeting with Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung on Wednesday, families of victims in the 2012 Lamma ferry tragedy were told that the Marine Department employees involved in the incident will not be prosecuted. On the same day a full investigation report on the collision was published by the government as well. However, the report, was not in fact the internal investigation conducted by the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) that the families of the victims had requested to see.
Families of victims said in an interview with Commercial Radio that they were disappointed at the government’s decision to not prosecute other employees of the Marine Department. They also said that the incompetence of the department had been revealed in the internal investigation report conducted by the THB and that the employees were only able to escape responsibility because it was not on record.
The families gave three suggestions on how they would move forward. They would either initiate civil proceedings, request a senior counsel to review all the reports to reconsider prosecuting or ask the police to appeal to those who are aware of the Marine Department’s internal operations to come forward with information.
James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party, who has been assisting relatives of the victims, said that the Marine Department staff had been negligent when inspecting the ship, which was a criminal offence. He said he hopes the government will respond to the wishes of the families and give their opinion on the case.
The government also on Wednesday released the full unredacted “Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Collision of Vessels near Lamma Island on 1 October 2012” which was put together by Justice Michael Lunn and Benjamin Tang. The publication of the report on the website came after the government sought legal opinion and came to the conclusion that the report will not affect further criminal proceedings, as the two captains of the vessels had already been sentenced by the court this February.
The move, however, was criticised by Legislative Councillors Gary Fan Kwok-wai and Wong Kwok-hing, who said that the publication of the report was misleading, as it was not in fact the THB internal report that the families of the victims had been demanding to see. The TBH report is said to have information about a dozen Marine Department employees who failed to carry out vessel inspections properly, and who ought to be prosecuted.
Speaking after the meeting, Rimsky Yuen said that when the Prosecutions Division makes a decision whether or not to prosecute, they must have sufficient evidence and that it must be in line with public interest. He said that there is no suggestion that the chance of prosecutions will be enhanced if the internal report by the Transport and Housing Bureau were to be disclosed. He added that the report has already been taken into account and “up to now, [there is] insufficient evidence to launch further criminal prosecutions.”
Yuen, however, did agree to look into the question of whether it would be possible to reveal the report to family members who have not started civil proceedings against the government, and he said he would have respond on this within a month.
On PRC National Day in 2012, 39 people were killed when a Lamma passenger ferry and a Hongkong Electric Company-owned vessel collided off Yung Shue Wan, one of Hong Kong’s deadliest ever ferry accidents. This year, the captains of both vessels were found guilty of manslaughter and endangering the safety of others at sea.