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Pike charges dropped, directors' insurance covers payment to victims' families

An unnamed insurance company will provide a $3.41 million payout to the families of 29 Pike River Coal miners who died and two survivors.

This is the outcome after all charges against former chief executive Peter Whittall were dropped.

The payment, described as voluntary, consists of $110,000 to each family and survivor and is to be made on behalf of the company’s directors at the time of the explosion in November 2010.

In the Christchurch District Court today, the Crown said that after an extensive review it was "not appropriate to continue with the prosecution against Mr Whittall'.'

In a memorandum of counsel for the defendant, lawyer Stuart Grieve, QC, says the Crown’s case contained “fundamental evidentiary deficiencies and flaws” that were identified by the defence counsel.

Some 32 of 91 briefs of evidence could not be submitted in evidence.

Mr Whittall, who fronted the media after the explosion, had earlier pled not guilty to the 12 charges brought by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

In a statement Mr Whittall and three former Pike directors John Dow, Ray Meyer and Stuart Nattrass say funds that would have been used to defend the case will now be made available to the families of the victims and the two survivors.

“Arrangements are being made for payment on behalf of the company’s directors and officers of the $3.41 million amount the company was ordered to pay.”

NBR ONLINE understands this means the directors’ and officers’ insurance cover is being called on.

More by Duncan Bridgeman

Comments and questions

A good example of restorative justice rather than the usual vindictive variety. That $3.4m is far better spent on victims than on defending the directors. The Crown can presumably afford to make a matching offer out of the saving of prosecution costs.

Surely the Crowns contribution is via ACC, not one off acts of kindness.

"In the Christchurch District Court today, the Crown said that after an extensive review it was "not appropriate to continue with the prosecution against Mr Whittall'.'

Watch the opposition nutters go to town with cheap shots over this case being dropped.
Obviously the Crown Prosecutors believed they did not have a good enough case to carry out a successful prosecution.

It seems strange that the crown law office has now accepted problems with the matters that were brought to their attention by the defence lawyers.

One has to ask how did the matter get through depositions and a trial date set in the first place as the crown law guidelines clearly state what is needed in a case such as this.

It would be interesting to see who the crown lawyer was at depostions

But hang on a second the Crown did pretty well didn't they? With a crappy case they managed to get millions out of the defendant's insurers?

The victims themselves have a lot to answer for in this sad situation as well. People were overriding safety features designed to protect the miners from operating equipment when there was excess gas buildup. Workplace safety is a culture that everyone has a part to play. It is not just a management issue and society as well as the MBIE needs to identify with this.

Agreed - one of he loudest voices agst the company was in fact the Health & Safety Officer - who perhaps should have been on the stand with Mr Whittal as he obv failed to do his job.

Yes lets be honest, these chaps weren't picking strawberries, they were being paid big money for a dirty and potentially dangerous job and their Union-sanctioned allowances took these factors into account.. Doesn't mean that you can expect to die on the job but the risks are implicit and accepted in the contract. The families have been screaming for money and now it's been offered, seems they don't like the source - they want the nasty capitalist shareholders of a part owner to pay rather than the insurers of the man they seem to hold responsible, strange really. Time to move on from Pike River, we've had 3 years of it.

Does it pass the test of "would I do this job? And for this money?" I think not. Anyone I know personally who has been down/in a coal mine has come out and said "I don't know what these guys are paid, but its probably not enough"

The workers were clearly being pressured implicitly and explicitly to up production, as the company had over promised and under-researched the problems at the mine. MBA 101: Managers can delegate authority but not responsibility.

The National Party got rid of depositions hearings, perhaps this case would have failed sooner if they had not.

What a load of unsubstantiated rubbish- provide evidence and name your self.