Crime on Board: IMO Legal Committee Draft Guidelines

Press Release
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
IMO Legal Committee 100th Meeting: Photo credit IMO

The Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has drafted advice for masters of ships on preservation & collection of evidence.

Draft guidelines on the preservation and collection of evidence following an allegation of a serious crime having taken place on board a ship, or following a report of a missing person from a ship, and on pastoral and medical care of victims were approved  by the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), when it met for its 100th session.

The draft guidelines, which focus on what can practically be carried out on board a ship to preserve and/or collect evidence and protect persons affected by serious crimes, until such time that the relevant law enforcement authorities commence an investigation, will now be submitted to the IMO Assembly 28th session, in November 2013, along with an associated draft resolution, for consideration with a view to adoption.

The primary purpose of the draft guidelines is to assist masters in the preservation of evidence and in the pastoral and medical care of persons affected and, when appropriate, in the collection of evidence, during the period between the report or discovery of a possible serious crime and the time when law enforcement authorities or other professional crime scene investigators take action.

The draft guidelines further state that the master is not a professional crime scene investigator and does not act as a criminal law enforcement official when applying the guidelines. The guidelines should not be construed as establishing a basis of any liability, criminal or otherwise, of the master in preserving and/or handling evidence or related matters.

The draft guidelines include sections covering co-operation and coordination between interested States and parties; the role of the master; missing persons; and pastoral and medical care.

Appendix 1 includes suggested formats for Victim Statement; Alleged Perpetrator Statement; and Independent Witness Statement.
Appendix 2 includes guidance derived from MSC.1/Circ.1404 (Guidelines to assist in the investigation of the crimes of piracy and armed robbery against ships), including guidelines on recovery and packaging of evidence.

The guidelines point out again that the master is not a professional crime scene investigator and does not act in the capacity of a criminal law enforcement official and that the guidance will likely only be applied in limited and exceptional circumstances by masters who may be called upon to collect evidence that may otherwise be lost if no action is taken.

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