Caxton lawyer Yatarla Clarke acted for the family of David Chivers in an inquest before Central Coroner O’Connell in March 2019 as part of our Coronial Assistance Legal Service. The inquest considered the circumstances of the deaths and presumed deaths of 8 men as a result of two separate incidents involving the capsize of fishing vessels, the Cassandra and the Dianne.
Jennifer Hewson of Counsel was briefed to appear and we were able to obtain a grant of aid for the client so Ms Hewson was paid for the brief. The client was also very grateful to receive a disbursement grant from LawRight to pay for the travel and accommodation costs of the barrister and Caxton lawyer for the 3 day inquest in Gladstone. The client had to travel herself to attend the inquest and would not have been able to participate at all or be legally represented at the inquest were it not for Caxton’s program and the grants from LawRight and Legal Aid.
Coroner O’Connell released his findings into these deaths on 29 August 2019. Coroner O’Connell found that the Cassandra had capsized while the crew were retrieving a snagged trawl net from a seabed ‘hook up’ off Waddy Point at Fraser Island. The Coroner found that both men aboard the trawler drowned. As Mr Chivers’ body was never found following the capsize in April 2016, the finding that Mr Chivers had died was of particular significance for the family as it now means a death certificate will be issued.
The Coroner made 9 recommendations regarding safety measures that could be implemented to prevent deaths occurring in similar circumstances in the future, including one which had been suggested on behalf of the family. Perhaps the most significant recommendation was for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to immediately notify the Queensland Police Service of any failure to poll by a vessel. Fishing vessels have an on board vessel monitoring system (VMS) which reports their location back to DAF at regular intervals. The sharing of failure to poll data with Queensland Police Service has the potential to enable a more speedy search and rescue response to capsized vessels and could help to improve the safety of those working at sea.