A court has ruled in favour of the Federal Government in a case brought against it after a boatload of asylum seekers smashed onto rocks at Christmas Island in 2010.
Fifty Iraqi and Iranian asylum seekers drowned when large seas forced their boat, known as SIEV 221, a suspected illegal entry vessel, crashed into cliffs at Christmas Island in the early hours of December 15, 2010.
Those who died included 35 adults and 15 children, but some others were rescued.
In the monsoonal weather the boat was not detected by Australian patrols and it was residents on Christmas Island who raised the alarm.
A number of the families involved in the tragedy sued the Federal Government, arguing the Commonwealth breached its duty of care by not rescuing their loved ones and that there was not a proper lookout.
They also said the Government did not have adequate search and rescue capabilities nearby at the time and that is was responsible for the boat when it came within 12 nautical miles of the island.
The class action included passengers who had suffered physical and/or psychological injury, passengers who lost material possessions, and relatives of passengers who suffered psychological injury.
The New South Wales Supreme Court ruled that the Government did not have duty of care to them because it had no control over the primitive nature of the vessel or of those controlling it, had no control over the weather, and did not send the boat out to sea.
"The Commonwealth had no control over the risk that a SIEV, if not intercepted, might be shipwrecked on the coast of Christmas Island due to factors such as poor weather, poor navigation or running out of fuel," Justice Geoffrey Bellew said.
"Further, the Commonwealth did not put the plaintiffs at any risk of harm."