In a previous posting from almost a year ago entitled Public Disasters and the Criminal Law, I discussed the difficulties in using the criminal law when public disasters occur. Primarily, I was referring to the tragic events of the Costa Cruise ship but I also mentioned some Canadian public disasters as well. Among the list, is the British Columbian ferry disaster when the Queen of the North ran aground in 2006 with a loss of both human and environmental life. The navigation officer, who had control of the ill-fated ship at the time, Karl Lilgert, was subsequently charged with criminal negligence causing death. Finally, Mr. Lilgert's trial is commencing.
He appeared in court yesterday and entered a plea of not guilty, six years after the event. His trial will commence on January 17 in Vancouver and is scheduled to last six months. The issue will be whether or not the Crown can prove the high level of negligence required to convict Lilgert of the charges. Criminal negligence must be a marked and substantial departure from the norm. This level is much higher than the standard required in regulatory offences, which is more akin to the civil standard of negligence. This case will have important implications on issue of criminalization of public welfare offences.