Seismologists in Italy receive 6-year sentences – Outrageous, Disappointing and Immoral!

Last update: January 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm by By

A short post to state that Earthquake-report.com also expresses outrage and disappointment with the conviction of the 6 expert scientists and 1 government official who were on the board deciding on the action of small earthquakes before the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009.

The 6 experts and a government official were all sentenced to six years in prison on multiple manslaughter charges by Judge Marco Billi on Monday afternoon.

They were sentenced to six years in jail in a watershed ruling in a case that has and should provoke outrage in the international science community.

The experts were also ordered to pay more than 9 million euros ($11.7 million) in damages to survivors and inhabitants. Under the Italian justice system, the seven will remain free men until they have exhausted two chances to appeal the verdict – one of which will hopefully overturn the decision.

The prosecution argued that the defendants gave “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” about whether smaller tremors that preceded the quake were a sign that a major disaster was about to strike.

When looking at probabilities of earthquakes, there is no prediction method that will ever tell you with exact certainty whether an earthquake will occur tomorrow or in 1000 years. The probabilities remain so low, that only tiny changes may be able to be made.

If scientists and earthquake engineers in the future are unable to explain the concept of ‘probability’ to people in other fields and the public without reprisal then how will we ever alert the public or make scientific breakthroughs in the field of earthquake engineering.

This sets a very dangerous precedent for giving advice and earthquake-report.com also fears it will discourage other scientists from offering their advice on natural hazards and trying to help society in this way.

Quoting from an article in Huffington Post, Dr Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey was equally shocked at the verdicts.  He said: “This is a very sad business indeed. These are people I know, who were doing their best to give an accurate account of large earthquakes. It seems to be wrong that they should be prosecuted for offering scientific advice to the best of their ability.”

Just some final points:-

1. We need to teach the concept of probability better in schools, kindergartens so that everyone understands what a 1 in 10000 chance actually means in the next year. It should be taught when fractions are learnt!

2. Italian Seismology has been thrown back into the dark ages with this court judgement, because what 6 scientists said at the meeting, every seismologist, earthquake engineer and person would agree with. 

3. Again, earthquake-report.com is shocked, outraged and disappointed by this judgement.

A group of bloggers has just started a Facebook group to protest against this incredible verdict. Become a fan and distribute the message as much as you can.

 

About the controversy that the trial was about “communication” and not “prediction”  (after a number of these comments :) ):

l’Aquila was and is a high risk area and building code is since long active for this area, THUS EVERYBODY did know that they are living in a high risk area. Politicians ask answers from science which do not exist at the moment.
This trial should NOT have taken place. Everybody living in an area of several 100 km near known fault lines do have to know about this risk, how to build and act if an earthquake strikes. Schools should learn students from Kindergarden on how they should behave.
The scientists have been prosecuted because they were pressed to make statements about the risk, which they gave to their best knowledge. Everybody working on earthquake risks and frequency is now a possible target for justice.
Earthquake-report.com

The judge should have said :
EARTHQUAKES CANNOT BE PREDICTED IN STRENGTH, TIMING, FREQUENCY AND PEOPLE LIVING IN FAULTING AREAS SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN CHARGING EXPERTS. Should you accept the same trial in San Fransico or San Jose, California ? This trial has been a tragedy for the people who suffered killed family members and who had severe damage.
Tomorrow the same will happen somewhere else in the world.
Earthquake-Report is making it one of his goals to learn tourists travelling to earthquake areas to know how to behave. Travel organizations are DEAF to our claim. Should they be brought to justice ? ONLY 0.001% of the tourists from non-earthquake areas do know what to do! We try to make them understand that giving a 1 minute lecture in a tourist bus would not harm tourism.
Earthquake-report.com

 

Comments

  1. Steve Wuschke says:

    Wow – got to dust off a copy of Hammurabi’s Law Code. The old becomes new!

    I am not sure my pay grade is worth the risk if this is what is coming to the world – thankfully I only have a few years left. I can punishment for willful criminal negligence but in this case???

    I suppose one needs to be careful about the organizations one serves in and the requisite responsibility level. Society in general seems to want to walk away from any individual personal responsibility and common sense and just seek who to blame when bad things happen. How are you suppossed serve in that framework.

  2. Engr.Sikandar Hayat Siddiqi says:

    IN GOD WE TRUST
    PARDON,PROTECT & HELP US LORD,
    GOD GIVE US THE WISDOM TO UNDERSTAND YOUR WAY OF CREATION WHICH
    WE CALL SCIENCE,TO BE EXPERT NEEDS PRACTICE & SELF IMPROVEMENT,
    LETS PRAY FOR ALL THOSE WHO ARE SICK FOR EARLY RECOVERY & IN DISTRESS,
    HELP SOME ONE IN POVERTY LEVEL
    .

    Dear Colleagues & Others > Worldwide:

    PREDICTION & WARNING ARE TWO DIFFERENT SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

    Statuary Warning is Essential

    It is true that earthquake/s can not be predicted with reasonable accuracy with
    respect to date,event time,GPS location & magnitude but risks can be pre-estimated
    once it happens and people should be warned.I think this is the main point of the Court of Italy,the land of Marcus Aurelius,the last of the Great Roman Emperors,Julius Ceaser and Mark Antony,Pro-consul of the Roman Empire, East of Italy.

    So based on risk analysis, statuary warning should be issued to the public like tsunami warning being issued by the tsunami warning centers worldwide like those of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center,Indian Tsunami Warning Center,Indonesian Tsunami Warning Center etc etc etc……………

    So Statuary Warning is essential and this is the point on which six Italian scientists and a government official are convicted by the court for non-issue of sufficient warning pertinent to risk generating earthquake of magnitude 5.8 on the Richter Scale which caused wide spread damage in the city of L’Aquila in central Italy at 3:32 a.m. local time (1:32 UTC) on Monday, April 6, 2009 and adjacent areas. Measured intensity level was around VI ~ VII on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMIS).

    So Italian authorities say the case is about failure to warn.
    The court in L’Aquila sentenced the scientists and a government official Monday to six years in prison, ruling that they didn’t accurately communicate the risk of the earthquake. Each person convicted is a member of the national Great Risks Commission in Italy. The convictions aren’t definitive until after at least one level of appeal, so it is unlikely any of the defendants would face prison term immediately.

    .With this much regards & best wishes.

    God Bless us all.

    Engr.Sikandar Hayat Siddiqi
    Principal Scientist & Chief Seismic Technical Co-ordinator, Earthquake & Tsunami Safety Management Initiative (ETASMI)/ Chief Technical Co-ordinator, ETASMI Data Center /Chief Executive, ETASMI Information Service /Project & Seismic Design Management Consultant / Earthquake Public Awareness Consultant
    Our Ref : ETASMI/ES/23-Oct-12
    Dhaka – Bangladesh/Asia
    Radio Link International Email
    11:25 PM Dhaka Time,Thursday,Oct 25 + 6 Hours GMT

    • Armand Vervaeck says:

      About the controversy : l’Aquila was and is a high risk area and building code is since long active for this area, THUS EVERYBODY did know that they are living in a high risk area. Politicians ask answers from science which do not exist at the moment.
      This trial should NOT have taken place. Everybody living in an area of several 100 km near known fault lines do have to know about this risk, how to build and act if an earthquake strikes. Schools should learn students from Kindergarden on how they should behave.
      The scientists have been prosecuted because they were pressed to make statements about the risk, which they gave to their best knowledge. Everybody working on earthquake risks and frequency is now a possible target for justice.
      Earthquake-report.com

      The judge should have said :
      EARTHQUAKES CANNOT BE PREDICTED IN STRENGTH, TIMING, FREQUENCY AND PEOPLE LIVING IN FAULTING AREAS SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN CHARGING EXPERTS. Should you accept the same trial in San Fransico or San Jose, California ? This trial has been a tragedy for the people who suffered killed family members and who had severe damage.
      Tomorrow the same will happen somewhere else in the world.
      Earthquake-Report is making it one of his goals to learn tourists travelling to earthquake areas to know how to behave. Travel organizations are DEAF to our claim. Should they be brought to justice ? ONLY 0.001% of the tourists from non-earthquake areas do know what to do! We try to make them understand that giving a 1 minute lecture in a tourist bus would not harm tourism.
      Earthquake-report.com

    • goldminor says:

      Politicians! There is a key word in this story. It is fascinating in a way that they are able to divert any claimed responsibility to some one other than themselves. Are they not the leaders? Isn’t the “leader” supposed to take responsibility for failure, whether it is a perceived failure or is one in actuality? A scientist is a worker in specialized studies.They issue informational reports that can then be utilized by others ie , business, environmental or societal needs. A politician is one who oversees the governance of a region and is the one who says when to act on a perceived need of a given area. This says something about the type of leaders that the voters end up with, and that is a problem that happens elsewhere around the globe, also.

    • Harry Gatley says:

      Next the Meterologists will be arrested for failing to predict the exact points tornadoes will fall and just what structures will be torn down by hurricanes. I foresee a time coming where scientists and engineers will have to check with the local “guardians” (cf. Plato’s concept) before issuing any statements about the earth, buildings, reactions, etc., in general.

      Having been an expert witness in several litigations (some over $100 million) I have witnessed a growing chasm between reality and laws. The recent legislation in North Carolina that eliminated the climatologists’ prediction of the water level rise over the next 50 years of some 50 inches where the models were tossed out and a straight line projection of the data to 8 inches was enacted makes me very fearful of what I put my P.E. stamp to!

  3. Edoardo says:

    I have lived directly the moment of that earthquake and much wrong informations were given by the government and its scientists. I’m not a seismologist but I have memory and a bit of curiosity: in the first months of 2009 many experts adviced that a big earthquake was possible, someone tried to predict the point of rupture, someone the magnitude, someone used analysis of Radon gas coming from the ground to determine if the possibilities were increasing; with a bit of caution a normal government would have fund these reaserches (with very few resources) in order to prove the correctness of their analysis but it has not be done and they were right (the man reasearching on Radon saved his life and those of his family because reading the data they slept out in that night). But beside all these aspects, there is something more simple and with no costs: memory. Infact in those days I lived again the tremendous escalation of events, in magnitude and in number, that preceeded the Umbria Earthquake in 1997 and had the same dynamic. A distensive fault, an increasing amount of earthquakes, in magnitude and in number, going on for months… and slowly focusing in a small area of epicenters… and in a precise layer for the ipocenters. I’, Mr. Unknown but I published a comment on Facebook on April 1st 2009 saying that the dynamics were equal to the Umbra Earthquake of 1997 and that probably L’Aquila would have met the same destiny. 5 days later the big earthquake struck.

    The point is that those scientists and government members condemned, were going saying that there was no risk, it was normal, there was nothing to worry, they ask police to investigate over the other scientists that were instead reasearching on the swarm in order to avoid them to give worrying advices to population, and they told people to go back home and sleep quietly in their home. People did and died. That’s why they are guilty! Because they predicted that there was no risk! This is their biggest fault.

    • Harry Gatley says:

      If you watch “Godzilla versus anything” you will see what I believe is a more accurate understanding of temblors is in common society! Keep in mind that where I live (Utah, USA) we also have a powerful lobby that has killed legislation that would have shored up structures against what will prove to be a huge earthquake here soon as they did nto want to incur the costs of the changes. There will be total devastation…not because of scientists and engineers but because of politicians eager to line their pockets with gold as they serve the rich (who also tend to build their mansions far from earthquake-prone areas).

      For the very reasons staed above we need to be proactive with newere building codes and stronger enforcement as we Cannot Predict earhquakes. City and Provicial officials also are quick to condemn those who cry wolf. It is a bitter road the scientist takes these days!

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