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You're a crook, Captain Hook: Criminal liability for maritime disasters causing death in Australian territorial waters

McVey, Alexander (2015) You're a crook, Captain Hook: Criminal liability for maritime disasters causing death in Australian territorial waters. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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The world is seeing more maritime disasters every year, in a variety of jurisdictions around the world. Many of these disasters cause a large number of deaths. As a result of those deaths, there is often pressure on the relevant authorities to prosecute the parties responsible. The master of the vessel may be the most obvious party to charge, but there may have been other parties responsible for the operation and management of the vessel whose negligent or reckless conduct contributed to the vessel’s demise. Despite the contributions of other parties, the master of a vessel may become a scapegoat, and, as a result, bear the brunt of any prosecution. There are several reasons why the master may receive the most blame in these situations. One of those may be that the law in force within the relevant jurisdiction does not provide particular criminal charges that apply to parties other than the master. This paper asks whether Australian law encourages prosecuting bodies to scapegoat the master of a vessel and whether this is demonstrative of the wider problem of seafarer criminalisation worldwide.

Criminal law will be fit for its intended purpose if it provides prosecuting authorities with the means to prosecute those truly responsible for damage caused, and to prosecute those parties in an appropriate manner. In 2012, the Australian government spearheaded sweeping changes to domestic maritime law. Those changes brought several new criminal charges relevant to maritime disasters causing death, and amended previous charges. This paper looks to the law in Australia applicable to maritime disasters causing death and asks whether the laws are fit for their intended purpose. The research conducted is doctrinal, focussing particularly on the Navigation Act 2012 (Cth), the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (Cth), and the Crimes at Sea Act 2000 (Cth).

Publication Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Law
Supervisor: Lewins, Kate
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