CLP releases controversial blast report to coroner

THE controversial ''Blue Report'' relating to the fatal explosion at Castle Peak Power Station last year was handed to Coroner Warner Banks yesterday without an argument by the company's lawyer.

In handing over three requested documents, China Light and Power's (CLP) lawyer Michael Beloff QC asked the coroner to reconsider, after reading the documents, whether any further evidence or witnesses should be recalled.

The thick volumes of the Blue Report were prepared by an affiliate of Exxon and relate to the prevention of a recurrence of an explosion.

In it, the affiliate discusses detailed engineering recommendations and the data log (during the time of the explosion).

The inquest into the deaths of two engineers at the power station will be reopened on November 18.

Yesterday's hearing was for CLP and Castle Peak Power Company (CAPCO) to hand over the three documents in response to a summons issued by the coroner. It was open to them to argue that the documents were privileged.

But Mr Beloff said they were waiving privilege and in a more than one-hour submission before the documents were handed over, explained the company's position and attacked criticisms and allegations made against CLP.

Counsel said the company was well aware of the allegations made by Michael Ford (who appeared for CLP at the inquest) that ''CLP have sought improperly to engage in a cover-up of the circumstances of the explosion by illegitimate failure to disclose to you material documents and other improper acts of similar kind and aim''.

Mr Beloff stressed that each and everyone of those allegations was utterly and unequivocally rejected by CLP and ''in due course and in the appropriate forum, Mr Ford's charges will be exposed as not only without foundation in fact, but as falsified by his own contemporary advice to CLP''.

He pointed out that in due course he would invite the coroner to direct the jury to focus their attention exclusively on the question of how the two engineers died in the explosion and ''not to be distracted by the widely publicised and strenuously disputed allegations of Mr Ford''.

''We wish to ensure - I submit uncontroversially - that the reopened inquest is an inquiry by jury into the two deaths and not a reflection of trial by newspaper of CLP,'' Mr Beloff said.

Counsel said that notwithstanding claims of privilege, which CLP have been advised they would be entitled to, they have determined to provide all the three documents.

Counsel reiterated that CLP had assisted in the inquiry beyond any legal obligations. Replying to the summons for ''unexpurgated copies'', Mr Beloff pointed out that there had been in fact no expurgation of any document.

Mr Beloff suggested to the coroner that after reading the three documents he could decide: Whether it indicates that there is any area of inquiry about the cause of death or circumstances connected with the deaths that can be shown to have been covered insufficiently or even not at all in the inquest.

Do they identify any witnesses that were not caused to be called but who the coroner now considers should have been called? Do they reveal any matter which should have been elicited from or put to any witnesses, who were called, which was not so elicited or put? Mr Beloff submitted that the test was not whether the documents or matters inferred to in them, were absent from the former inquest but whether it could have made any difference to the verdict had they been available.

''If when you have considered those documents, you conclude that there is no new primary material identified in them, but only an elaboration of theories based on primary facts to which you and the jury have already had sufficient access, you may concludethat any further hearing will need to be of the most abbreviated kind,'' counsel said.

If the coroner decides that further evidence should be called, copies of the three documents will be given to interested parties but Mr Beloff stressed there should be an undertaking that the documents would not be used for any civil proceedings.

Engineers Yip Ka-pui, 40 and Wong Kwong-yu, 38, died in the explosion on August 28, last year, which also injured 19 others. Their deaths were ruled accidental by the coroner's jury in May.

Mr Beloff claimed that it was allegations made by Mr Ford that made the coroner alert the Attorney-General to request the reopening of the inquest.

Together with the three documents, an affidavit from CLP's legal manager, Richard Parry, was also handed to the coroner.

In the affidavit Mr Parry stated that in the light of the ''wholly untrue allegations and distortions of facts'' that have been made in public and to allay the concerns of the company and its employees as to the injury done to the company's reputation, itwas prepared to waive privilege over the documents.

Clive Grossman QC for the Attorney-General said in reply that if the coroner decided that further evidence should be heard then advice would have to be taken from the Fire Services and Environmental Protection departments on the CLP documents.

CAPCO is 40 per cent owned by CLP and 60 per cent owned by Exxon Energy Limited which is a subsidiary of Texas oil giant Exxon Corporation.