AN Edinburgh QC is to face a perjury trial in Tonga over claims he lied during an inquiry into the sinking of the MV Princess Ashika in which 74 people died.

Lord Ramsay Dalgety, QC, was criticised in an official inquiry in the South Pacific kingdom into the nation’s worst shipping disaster, which happened in 2009.

He appeared in court last year over claims he gave false evidence during an investigation into the maritime disaster off the coast of Tonga.

His trial was dismissed on a technicality after it emerged an indictment had not been properly signed and dated.

But it is understood a new trial date could be set within a matter of weeks after an appeal court reinstated the perjury charges.

Among the mainly women and children who drowned was Daniel MacMillan, 48, from Islay.

Lord Dalgety was secretary of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia which operated the government-owned ferry at the time.

An official report into the sinking by Tonga’s Royal Commission of Inquiry found Lord Dalgety “unfit to hold such an important position”, “evasive” and “lacking credibility”.

He was also criticised for failing to order an independent survey before the purchase of the ferry, which he admitted had been a “rust bucket”.

His legal team said the earlier charges related solely to the definition or interpretation of the organisation of a company and Lord Dalgety had answered 5500 questions during the inquiry. Justice Robert Shuster then quashed the charges in the Nuku’alofa Supreme Court.

However, the Tongan Court of Appeal ordered the perjury indict- ment against Ramsay Robertson Dalgety, commonly known as Lord Dalgety, be reinstated and referred back to the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa for trial.

Appeal judges Justice Peter Salmon Justice James Burchett and Justice Michael Moore decided to allow the trial to go ahead after a week’s sitting at the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa.

It was reported they issued an 11-page judgment on the case which allowed the perjury trial to go ahead, despite the technicality of the indictment.

Justice Peter Salmon said: “The practice of filling unsigned indictments is not without precedent.”

The judges stated Chief Justice Michael Dishington Scott would also decide which judge would preside over the fresh hearing.

Tonga’s Law Society had reportedly welcomed the appeal court’s decision to overturn the quashed perjury charge.

The law society’s president, Laki Niu, said: “The legislation in England, which requires indictments to be signed, etc, do not really apply in Tonga. Our law only applies common law and equity, not statutes or general application of England.”

Solicitor General Aminiasi Kefu said the decision gives certainty, not only for the Crown, but the whole Tongan criminal justice system.

The commission of inquiry last year said the former director of Scottish Opera was “dishonest and lacked integrity in his role”.

The report also highlighted an apparent lack of competence in admiralty law, a field in which he was said to be a specialist, over record-keeping

The report stated: “He considered he was very experienced in admiralty law and company law matters. As company secretary, he understood when performing his duties, he was to exercise reasonable care, diligence and skill. He was aware there were numerous offences if owners or operators failed to protect the safety of life at sea.

“He ‘overlooked’ the definition of owner under the Shipping Act effectively covered an operator such as the Shipping Corporations of Polynesia.”