Charges should have proceeded
“All New Zealanders should be seriously concerned about how the Crown dealt with a letter from Peter Whittall’s lawyers some two months before he was discharged” CTU President Helen Kelly said today.
The letter makes clear that Mr Whittall’s offer of payments to Pike River families was conditional on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment agreeing that “no evidence would be offered” at Whittall’s trial, thereby ensuring he was acquitted. The money was to be paid on that basis. It also makes plain that if the Crown proceeded with the charges, then alleged incompetency by MBIE in investigating the case would be a key defence strategy
“It is very concerning that this letter has only now seen the light of day.” The letter was not included in response by the Ministry to official information requests made by the CTU.
It is very concerning that the District Court concluded that the Ministry’s motivation in not proceeding was because of the insufficiency of evidence and that it had “substantial problems in its case against Mr Whittall”, when the full picture is quite different.
“The facts are clear – this Mine was run in the most dangerous of manners. It exploded only one year after opening killing 29 much loved men. Mr Whittall made several key decisions which a Royal Commission criticised in regards to safety at the mine.”
“Since the explosion the effort to hold to account those responsible has been vigorously fought by those open to accusation and has now been compromised by the Crown in a manner which is highly questionable.”
“New Zealanders who read the letter of Mr Whittall’s lawyers to the MBIE (link below) will be appalled.
“There needs to be scrutiny of this decision both in order for the families of Pike to get some justice but also to reassure all New Zealanders that justice in this country cannot be bought.” Kelly said.