Rarely has capitalism shown such an uncaring and cruel face as that displayed by Thomas Cook and its senior executives in Wakefield Coroners Court this week, as they maintained a stony silence and exercised their legal right to refuse to answer questions – the UKs only equivalent to pleading the 5th Amendment in the States, a strategy usually adopted by mafia and underworld figures trying to hide their guilt.The questions would have been about the role played by Thomas Cook in the death by carbon monoxide poisoning of two young children on holiday in a Corfu hotel in 2006.
Cook’s strategy of silence however, backfired as the Coroner directed the jury to bring in a verdict of unlawful killing, which it duly did. The company’s 9 year battle to maintain its innocence behind a wall of silence collapsed as it was found to have breached its duty of care to the children, as well as, it would appear, its own heath and safety policy.
There is usually only one reason why a witness refuses to testify and that reason is fear, fear that if the questions are answered truthfully they will help to establish the guilt of the witness or those whom they represent. Are Thomas Cooks senior executives so clueless that they were unaware of the damage that their silence would do in front of a jury and in front of the nation’s media to the company’s reputation.
Perhaps it had already recognised that after accepting £1,000,000 compensation from the hotel, its reputation was hardly at its highest, especially after comparing that largesse to the comparatively small sum paid to the family of the dead children. Perhaps it knew that its repeated rejection of opportunity after opportunity to apologise to the grieving relatives and in the end to “fess” up and give honest answers,had finally destroyed any vestige of credibility.
The sight of those stony faces, heartlessly exercising their right of silence has brought shame on a once respected management. We can hope that heads will role but I suspect they wont and that Cook will carry on as before.
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