CTV Families Press Conference Statement
CTV Families Press Conference
Statement from Professor Maan Alkaisi, on behalf of the CTV Families
Rydges Latimer Hotel Christchurch
11 April 2018
Background following police decision not to prosecute
Following the police's decision, announced on the 30th November 2017, not to prosecute anyone over the 2011 collapse of the CTV building that took 115 lives, Justice Minister Andrew Little said, - “those involved have walked away scot-free and that's not right".
The following day’s Press Editorial heading said it all - the “CTV failure offends our sense of justice”, and when accountability is called for, our justice system fails to do so.
As I have previously stated, the decision that no-one will be prosecuted, is simply offensive and undermines the principles and the integrity of the New Zealand justice system.
I must add that I have not met, read or heard from any person who felt justice has been served by this decision.
Following the announcement, the families gathered not far from here and held a peaceful protest on 10th December 2017.
We then met, on the 14th December 2017, with representatives of the Police, Crown Law, and the Christchurch Crown Solicitor, where we received a briefing on the background to the decision and were provided with an opportunity to ask questions.
I will shortly explain the reason for calling today’s Press Conference, but before doing so, I wish to comment on the CTV Families meetings with the Hon Andrew Little - Minister of Justice on the 17th December 2017 and with the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister on the 15th February 2018.
In all of these meetings we expressed our dissatisfaction with the injustice and the way the families were let down by government organisations.
Both the Prime Minister and the Justice Minster showed great empathy and did not defend the decision but made it clear that as politicians they can’t and don’t interfere with the police work, which we fully understand and appreciate.
We informed the Justice Minister that following our meeting with the Police (14 December 2018) that, in our view, based on what was presented and the answers received to our questions that:
Significant evidence and relevant matters weren’t adequately considered and had they, [the prosecution case] described as being 'finely balanced', which we interpret as being 50-50, would have resulted with a decision to prosecute being taken.
A similar message was conveyed to the Prime Minister when we met her in February and both she and the Justice Minister have received correspondence from us to ensure the CTV Families position was formally recorded.
Police meeting -
and why the Deputy Solicitor-General decision must be
The police initially decided to lay criminal charges (115 manslaughter), against the two engineers, Alan Reay and David Harding.
This conclusion was reached after three years of investigation, which involved 16 police officers to look into the criminal offence and Engineering firm Beca, to conduct detailed technical analysis and testing.
The police asked Beca specifically whether there were “major departure” in the design of the CTV building that amounted to gross negligence as compared to normal practice at the day.
In the conclusion of Beca’s 252 page report, it states that:
1. Dr Reay, as the person who undertook to design the building, omitted to discharge his duty to allocate appropriately experienced personnel to the design, checking and review process of the building structure.
2. this omission was a substantial and operating cause of the collapse; and
3. the omission was a major departure from the expected standard.
In preparation for the Police meeting on the 14th December 2017, I prepared a list of questions in six pages that focused on the four main criteria used by the Solicitor General to change the police decision.
• The one year one day limit
• Public interest not met
• Financial implications runs into millions; and
• No major departure from normal practice.
However, during the meeting, the Deputy Solicitor-General Brendon Horsley was fast to downplay the obstacles of one year one day limits, public interest not met and financial implications is very high and claimed that the only important matter is to proof that there was major departure from normal practice to warrant manslaughter charges under “Evidential sufficiency”.
I responded by explaining and giving examples of the major departure in the design of the CTV building that account in our opinion and many others for gross negligence.
I then went on to list significant and critical matters that were based on the Royal Commission investigation (Vol 6, Nov 2012), the Department of Building and Housing report (January 25, 2012 ) and finally Beca’s technical report(July 2016).
According to a prominent engineer who studied the building design thoroughly there are more than 300 design deficiencies in the CTV building, some of them code non complaint and are serious design errors that led to the catastrophic collapse of the CTV building. By catastrophic collapse I mean the failure of multiple levels of a building because of deign deficiencies.
Then there was the conclusion that came after tens of specialist construction engineers, national and international experts, the testing of beam column joints at Auckland University, all confirmed that the building was code non complaint and had numerous design deficiencies that amount to major departure.
At the conclusion of my challenging Mr. Horsely, it became very clear that in my view and that of many other family members attending, that the he had apparently ignored all these facts and evidences and only considered irrelevant matters (police rebuttal report 11 August 2017).
Furthermore, we were left with the impression that the Deputy Solicitor-General appeared to have assumed he was more knowledgeable than all the engineering experts in the field.
To emphasis the major departure issue, I said, Mr.Reay has a PhD in Earthquake Engineering, he is fully aware of the danger of earthquakes, yet he was presented with two opportunities to rectify his design problems but did not take any action.
The first opportunity for Reay to rectify the design problems was in 1986 when Mr. Tapper, the city council engineer provided Reay with a list of thirteen problems in the building design including the connections between the shear wall and floors that was one of the reasons attributed to the collapse. Mr. Reay ignored them.
Then the second opportunity came when a report produced by Holmes inspection in 1990 explicitly stating that the building will collapse in case of earthquake. It took Reay 21 months to respond and install drag bars that were short, not on all floors, code non complaint and where installed without council permit, illegally. This is a clear evidence that Mr.Reay is fully aware of the problems in the building yet he did not take any action to make the building safe to occupy
To our surprise and in front of all the families, we observed that
Mr Horsley looked right to Peter Read, and left to Mark Zarifeh, indicating that he did not know about these factors and stated that they had not told him about them. He said “this could be used to press charges… for negligence…”.
The room went silent and there was an overwhelming since of disbelief that having heard Mr Horsley response, it appeared to us that he was unaware of critical information, and accordingly had not taken this into account before reaching his decision to not prosecute.
I asked Mr Horsley and the other members of the panel to go back to their offices and reconsider the decision.
Since that meeting Mr Horsley’s decision, as far as we are aware, remains unchanged.
Formal request made to Attorney General
This morning the Hon David Parker, Attorney General, was sent a request from the CTV Families setting out the justification and basis that that the decision not to prosecute should be reassessed by the Solicitor-General.
A copy of this request was also sent to the Rt Hon Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister and the Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Justice.
We have informed the Attorney General that we
found the explanations given for the decision unsatisfactory
We therefore have requested that he invite the Solicitor-General to reconsider the decision not to prosecute.
The Attorney-General’s role
We think that in this case, the public importance of the decision means it would be appropriate for the Attorney-General to ensure that the decision-making process was and is robust.
We pointed out that we believe that it would be within the Attorney-General’s powers and functions to invite the Solicitor-General to review the decision, on the basis of our concerns set out below.
Why the decision needs to be re-visited?
In support of our request to the Attorney-General we submitted an affidavit and supporting affidavits setting out the reasons why, following the 14th December meeting, we were concerned about the decision not to prosecute.
We highlighted that our main concern is that the Deputy Solicitor-General did not appear to be aware of all of the relevant facts, and that the decision makers were generally unable to convincingly defend their decision.
We also pointed out that when we explained why we believe there were major departures from normal engineering practice in the design of the CTV building, including the two opportunities to rectify the design problems, the Deputy Solicitor-General appeared to be surprised at this information and stated that it could be used to press charges. We provided details of these issues in the affidavits.
We have informed the Attorney-General, that at this stage, the CTV Families do not have confidence in the decision or the decision-making process that was followed.
As the decision is a matter of both national and international public interest, we think it is essential that the decision is cogent.
We acknowledge and welcome that the Government is taking steps to repeal the ‘year and a day’ law. But our understanding, from the reports released by the Police to justify the prosecution decision is that the year and a day rule was just one of a number of factors relevant to the decision not to prosecute.
At the meeting with families, the Deputy Solicitor-General indicated that it was not the main obstacle to a prosecution. As such, the proposed law change does not remove the concerns we have about the decision making process in this case.
A review by the Solicitor-General
We think that the decision should be reassessed by the Solicitor-General. We understand that the work on the decision was largely undertaken by the Deputy Solicitor-General and other parties, rather than the Solicitor-General.
A review should consider:
• whether or not the decision not to prosecute was based on all relevant information required to make a fully informed determination on all of the facts;
• whether all of the relevant factors were adequately considered to ensure that the decision not to prosecute was appropriately decided in accordance with the Solicitor-General’s Prosecution Guidelines;
• whether or not the decision not to prosecute may have taken into account any irrelevant information/considerations; and
• whether, in all the circumstances, the correct decision was made in relation to prosecution.
In the circumstances, given the importance of the decision, we suggest to the Attorney-General that it would be appropriate for the peer review process to have the advantage of access to a Queen’s Counsel with substantial criminal law experience
We maintain that the CTV case is justified and must go to trial to ensure just judgment without external interferences.
It is worth mentioning that the hundreds of millions wasted on doggy EQ repair and the use of non-code complaint steel, are only few examples of the importance of sending strong message to the construction industry that human lives are valuable, and substandard building practices are not acceptable.
Time Up injustice, send the CTV case to court, the 115 lives deserve meaningful action from the Government.
The government can’t act as spectator on such an important national and international matter.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” William Wilberforce
We ask for justice and accountability and will never give up until justice is done.