- According to the minutes of the meeting, the scientists never said there was no danger of a big quake. Volcanologist Franco Barberi said, accurately: "There is no reason to believe that a swarm of minor events is a sure predictor of a major shock." So far, the scientists are in the clear.
- However, after the meeting, Bernardo De Bernardinis from the Civil Protection Agency walked out and addressed the press: "The scientific community tells me there is no danger because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favourable." Now this was not a true representation of what was actually said at the meeting by the scientists.
- At the trial and after, the scientists have said that the responsibility for the tragedy lies with De Bernardinis, who made the "no danger" statement.
- But according to the prosecutor (and I agree with him), regardless of who made the statement, the scientists on the committee are culpable for failing to correct it promptly. They allowed an incorrect summary of their discussion to be passed to the public as their expert opinion and did not correct it with alacrity. This was highly negligent of them and they failed in their fiduciary duty to the public.
Just imagine the world with scientists saying, 'no thank you, we're not available, we will not being doing anymore of our job'.
The Corriere della Sera daily said in a front page editorial:
The most worrying thing is that from now on, there will not be a single expert willing to join the commission because they know they could face very heavy criminal convictions for not having been able to predict a disastrous quake.
And really now, how is this any different from a medical malpractice suit? Every time someone sues a doctor or a hospital for negligence, the medical community closes ranks. But they don't say that doctors will stop practising. They usually raise the bogey of higher medical care costs because of the rise in insurance premiums to cover public liability and professional indemnity. [Well, ooga-booga! We're not scared.]
It seems society is always held to ransom by powerful guilds. The moral of the story is that with every position of authority comes responsibility, and no one should be allowed to duck that.