British diver charged with involuntary homicide by Maltese authorities

British diver charged with involuntary homicide by Maltese authorities

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A scuba instructor is fighting extradition to Malta where he faces charges of causing the deaths of his partner and close friend during a diving holiday in June last year. Inquest had commended the diver for risking his life trying to save the divers and had returned a verdict of accidental death for the two divers.

Gozo coastlne

Brighton (UK) coroner, Veronica Hamilton-Deeley, concluded the deaths on June 17 last year were the result of diving accidents, after hearing from witnesses and medical experts. However, the Maltese authorities accuse Mr Martin, 55, of Rustington, West Sussex, of being 'negligent in his obligations'.

According to the Daily Mail they claim the 'failed to keep a close watch' of his scuba diving 'buddy' and long-term partner Ms Hooley and should have halted the dive off Gozo, due to 'prevailing weather conditions'. Mr. Martin, who is a qualified diving instructor, rejects the claims, stating to the Daily Mail: "Charge details claim that I had failed in my duty to observe the group generally and to check weather conditions before the dive." The charge carries a maximum ten-year prison sentence.

Writing on the Dive Forum, Mr Martin posted [excerpts]

At the inquest we heard that both deceased had suffered fatal immersion pulmonary oedemas. The expert witness told the inquest, her reduced oxygen intake would have caused her rapid breathing and unusual behavior. Before the inquest, we heard of a secret inquiry into the accident was being conducted in Gozo, and the coroner tried without success, to obtain information but the Maltese refused to help, myself and the surviving eye witnesses were not asked to attend.

This was a typical dive holiday not a course, I’m a BSAC instructor and an Advanced Diver I was one of the most qualified divers in this particular group, it’s also alleged that I should have given first aid under water, any diver knows this is ridiculous, absurd and impossible, the dive-profile of the of the casualties showed “unorthodox” dive profiles, of course they did it was a rescue, and that I had failed to check for unknown equipment faults whatever they were, they never found any faults either, we all performed buddy-checks before every single dive, It’s also suggested that I didn’t pay any attention to the weather, we abandoned the first dive because of poor weather conditions that day at the El Farroud, photographed the spectacular sea state and ate ice creams and discussed where to go next.

According to the Daily Mai Mr Martin said he was interviewed by Maltese authorities after the incident but then heard nothing from them until he was arrested on July 7 by Sussex Police officers, acting on the European Arrest Warrant. On July 8 a judge approved his extradition to Malta, in line with a treaty between the two countries, but Mr Martin has lodged an appeal with the High Court.

Where is BSAC?

The British Sub-Aqua Clun (BSAC) of which Mr Martin holds a membership which comes with a 3rd party insurance policy. In a short statement writes "While BSAC cannot comment publically on the case as Stephen is the subject of legal proceedings in Malta, we are looking at ways in which we can effectively support him while also considering the families of the deceased divers at this difficult time. We would like to assure our members that as the National Governing Body we represent their best interests and work hard to support them as the need arises. "