Sunday, March 05, 2006

Take It Back

At least one of my readers has been getting herself qualified to drive a personal watercraft and another has been educating us about Admiralty Law. So for the two of you (if nobody else) here is a legal case from the United Kingdom that hinged on the question of, "Is a personal watercraft a ship?"

Apparently the driver of this particular chainsaw-on-water had rammed his weapon-toy into a fellow idiot-jet-skier and severely injured him. An ingenious prosecution charged the miscreant as the master of a sea-going vessel and he was sentenced to six months in prison. (Far too lenient in my opinion).

Unfortunately after what sounds like some expensive legal tap-dancing he won his appeal. I still hate jetskiers. This ultimate PWC repellent is the best way to deal with them as far as I am concerned.


Litoralis said...

Here's a good quote from the case: On a less exalted level, people will for long continue to derive enjoyment from being on the sea, not because they are accomplishing a journey to an intended destination but simply for the pleasure of – in the well worn phrase from The Wind in the Willows – "messing about in boats".

Back to the actual case, the whole argument is based on a badly drafted and ambiguous piece of statutory language. "'Ship' includes every description of vessel used in navigation."

If the legislative intent was to limit the reach of the staute to vessels above a certain size or commercial vessels then the definition could easily have been drafted as such. I don't think the intent was for this statute to be used to hold pleasure boaters criminally liable. In the US, the civil liability would probably take care of punishing any jetskiers who cause accidents.

Tillerman said...

Yeah. I thought you would enjoy that.

It's cool to hear the langauge used by the crusty Enlish judges in their wigs describing this incident. I like this comment on jetskis from one judge, "The heading of the craft at any particular moment is usually of no materiality".

That's the problem.

Litoralis said...

The judge for this case was not actually that crusty:
Mrs Justice Rafferty

Anonymous said...

The problem with most Jetski operators, and why they're so dangerous, is that many get on a jetski without any understanding of the rules of the road or any sense of responsibility for their actions. Many also don't understand that boats DO NOT stop or manuever like cars, as water doesn't provide the same level of control for the vehicle.

It takes a while for reverse to stop a boat... a concept that most PWC operators don't understand. Also, they don't seem to realize that you can't carve tight turns on water very reliably.

BTW, I love the SideWinder anti-PWC defense system article. In the US, an operator could probably be charged with neligent manslaughter.

Tillerman said...

Negligent manslaugher? Surely not Dan. If the vice-president can shoot a lawyer and get away with it, surely I am allowed to take out a jetskier? Or is it only OK if the operator of the jetski is a lawyer?

Anonymous said...

I feel like a criminal...
And all I did was get a license!!!

Carol Anne said...

Just got a call from my HMO. Those folks want to "recover" money from the owners of the boat I was on when my head got clobbered. They're both lawyers, and I fear the carnage is going to be terrible.

Tillerman said...

Hey that's what insurance is for.

So your insurance company can sue their insurance company and make money for lawyers so they can afford to go sailing and lend us their boats.

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