Jersey lifeboat crew plans to break with the RNLI

The coxswain of the St Helier lifeboat, Andy Hibbs, was sacked and then reinstated by the parent charity for allegedly breaking the code of conduct

An RNLI crew has said it plans to break away from the national body and set up its own independent lifeboat service after a long-standing dispute.

Members of the St Helier lifeboat service on Jersey said they had been subject to unacceptable treatment by the RNLI and planned to go it alone.

The dispute appears to have begun in April after Andy Hibbs, coxswain of the St Helier lifeboat, was sacked by the RNLI for allegedly breaching the charity’s code of conduct, reportedly after being accused of launching a lifeboat to help a broken-down vessel without permission from the coastguard.

This led to all of Hibbs’ 25-strong crew resigning and public protests at the decision, before the charity reinstated him after a review and apologised.

But in a statement on Facebook this week, Hibbs said he and his crew had decided to split from the national body because of "unacceptable treatment".

"It is with a deep heart that myself and our entire crew have made the decision tonight to step away from the RNLI and to pursue the option of setting up an independent lifeboat in St Helier," he wrote.

"The way we have been treated over the last year is unacceptable. This is not just a local problem, but a national one. Many UK stations have been in contact saying the treatment we have received is not an isolated problem and that other stations are also going through this treatment.

"Sadly we cannot go on like this any longer. It affects not only us but also all of our families. This has been going on for months and I feel we deserve a lot more respect from an organisation for whom we risk our lives, give up our evenings, weekends and our family time."

Leesa Harwood, director of community lifesaving and fundraising at the RNLI, said: "After listening to the volunteers at St Helier lifeboat station, who have said they would like to explore the option of setting up an independent lifeboat station, the RNLI is now considering the best way forward. Representatives from the RNLI will return on Friday to agree the next steps."

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