In breaking news all charges laid under the HSIE Act against former Pike River boss Petter Whittall have been withdrawn.
From the Herald:
In a shock development in the Christchurch District Court this morning, the Crown said that after an extensive review it was “not appropriate to continue with the prosecution against Mr Whittall”.
Mr Whittall has proposed that a voluntary payment be made on behalf of the directors and officers of Pike River Coal Ltd (in receivership) at the time of the explosions to the families of the 29 men who died and the two survivors.
It means $110,000 will be given to each of the families and survivors – totalling $3.41m.
Mr Whittall’s lawyer Stuart Grieve QC today said a bank cheque has been given to the court and asked for Judge Jane Farish to make sure the money was available by Christmas.
While I am pleased that further compensation will be paid to the Pike River victims’ families it is disturbing that the payment of money should result on the face of it with charges being withdrawn. There are public policy considerations and the need to maintain deterrence which mean that sometimes prosecutions should occur even if some financial redress has been paid.
The amount, $110,000 per victim, is the exact same amount that Judge Farrish ordered the company to pay when the company was sentenced for the same offence. I wonder if the payment is in full and final settlement of this claim? If so it seems that John Key and the Government are off the hook.
The payment is apparently being made on behalf of the directors and officers of the company at the time of the explosion. It may be that it will be in satisfaction of any potential civil liability. The payment was justified on the basis that a successful defence would have cost about the same amount.
Finally an apology of sorts was tendered.
Mr Whittall wishes to reiterate his heartfelt sympathy for the families and friends of those men who lost their lives in the Pike River coal mine in November 2010.
He has offered to meet with the families to convey these sentiments in person.”
Expressing sympathy and saying sorry are not necessarily the same thing. Why is it that sorry seems to be sometimes the hardest word?
Update: Radio New Zealand reported that Bernie Monk on behalf of the families said outside the Court that the payment was “blood money” and said they did not want to meet with Mr Whittall.