British Sub-Aqua Club members have rejected by a substantial majority a special resolution that would have submitted the club to an independent enquiry into its handling of the Stephen Martin case, in which a member was charged with culpable homicide in Malta last year.
The club had argued that such an enquiry was unnecessary and threatened to cost it more than £100,000.
In June 2015 Stephen Martin was charged by Maltese authorities with culpable homicide, following a club dive in Gozo in which his partner and another diver died. Martin, who had returned to the UK, was tagged and awaited extradition, only to learn that criminal defence costs were no longer covered by BSAC third-party liability insurance.
In late August BSAC offered to cover Martin’s legal defence costs up to £100,000 from club funds, and was eventually able to meet Maltese legal authorities to explain the weaknesses in their case. The extradition proceedings and charges were subsequently dropped in mid-January.
The member’s resolution had been to hold an external review of the decision-making process that led to removal of criminal defence liability from BSAC insurance in 2007, and all aspects of the handling of Martin’s case.
BSAC argued that legal action was being considered against a previous insurance broker, because the club had been unaware that cover for non-deliberate criminal defence costs had been removed during a change of provider, believing that the transfer was on a like-for-like basis.
It said that its since-revised third-party policy, which now includes cover for non-deliberate manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and culpable homicide defence costs, was “the best on the market and provided exceptional, fit-for-purpose cover for all members”.
The club also said that the estimated £102,000-plus cost of an enquiry did not represent best use of members’ money, and that it had already conducted and published a detailed internal review.
BSAC claims some 30,000 members, though fewer than 2000 voted in its annual elections, including the special resolution which was defeated by 1575 votes to 405.
“The last few months have been extremely difficult for BSAC and with 79% of members voting against Special Resolution 2, we now need to work together to move forward,” said the club’s CEO Mary Tetley, affirming that “BSAC has consistently acted in good faith, transparently and with the best interests of all of its members at heart.”