Yesterday the families lost only a small bit of the battle for justice at Pike in an application to get some of the documentation relating to the decision to dismiss the charges against Peter Whittall relating to the Pike River Mine explosion. Most of the documents sought have already been provided after the application was filed but before it was heard. The lawyers may appeal but it is clear from the decision that the process of filing itself did see MBIE voluntarily agreeing to release a number of the key documents as the trial date neared without the need for a judge order.
The CTU is supporting two of the families in this case for a judicial review of this decision and with a solid backing from many of the other families as well. MBIE is fighting hard to maintain the secrecy of the deal that saw the Crown accept money in exchange for a criminal discharge for one of this countries worst cases of health and safety failures . This was no plea bargain – Whittall maintains his innocence. In our view it was an improper offer and should not have been considered but that will be for the Court to consider shortly.
The big point about yesterdays decision is the State continues to fight all the way against the demand for justice for these families . You might all remember the visit John Key made to the families at Pike to tell them there would be no re-entry into the mine. In that visit he told them he would support them with any legal action they wanted to take. The CTU wrote to him regarding two avenues the families wanted to pursue and got back this response. No help there – and no indication that there will be!
So here we are – all one part of the Crown trying to hold the line on the legal action that is underway and the other part making sure there are insufficient resources for the families to seek any others. We are continuing to support these families and to try to get some justice for those men underground. But in case you thought the Government was in the same camp…. think again.
PS. as a side note. Over a year ago and initial application was made to the Christchurch District Court for the court file relating to this case. After a year with still no response following several “in chambers” discussions, the Judicial Review was filed without it. Only in February this year did the judge finally issue a decision noting that given the same matter was before the High Court she would not make a decision – that was about one week after the lawyers acting for the families were advised by Crown Law that in regards to this matter they had been informed that parts of the District Court file have been lost. Apparently efforts have been made to locate it but they have not been successful.