Pike River: no criminal charges
"Disgraceful. Blind Freddy could look over the evidence and see that the company failed miserably."Featured comment
No criminal charges will be laid over the Pike River disaster that claimed 29 lives.
Police say there is insufficient evidence to lay manslaughter charges against any individual involved.
The decision promted spokesman for the Pike River families Bernie Monk to call for a law change to allow a corporate manslaughter charge.
"There is no accountability here. We want accountability," Mr Monk told media..
The families are discussing options for a private prosecution, Mr Monk says, either against a government department or individual.
Police have concluded their investigation into the explosion at the Pike River Mine which occurred on Friday 19 November 2010.
The investigation began on the day following the explosion with the aim of assessing criminal liability that could be attributed to any individual, but was hampered by police's inability to access the mine.
After a complex and lengthy inquiry, and consideration of all the information available, it has determined that no charges will be laid against any individual involved in the management of Pike River Coal prior to the explosion, police said in a statement issued at 7.39pm tonight following a meeting with families of the victims.
There is general acceptance and ample evidence that there were widespread departures from accepted standards of mine operations, police say.
However police have determined that there is insufficient evidence to support the laying of manslaughter charges.
The lack of any causative link to the specific events which led to the explosion means a manslaughter prosecution of any individual does not meet the standard of evidential sufficiency, police say.
There is enough evidence to support a charge of criminal nuisance. However the public interest test under the Solicitor General's prosecution guidelines is not met given the ongoing prosecutions led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) under the Health and Safety in Employment Act (HSE), police say.
A charge of criminal nuisance laid by police raised issues of double jeopardy, given the ongoing MBIE prosecutions. There is also the potential for a criminal nuisance charge to adversely impact on the MBIE court process. A further consideration was that any penalty arising from a police led criminal nuisance charge was unlikely to be greater than the MBIE led prosecutions.
"This has been a very difficult decision and not one taken lightly" says Detective Superintendent Peter Read, who led the inquiry team.
"I informed the families of the 29 men this evening and I know they will be very disappointed. I can only give them my absolute assurance that we have been meticulous in our investigation and consulted widely as the inquiry progressed."
The investigation has been one of the most complex undertaken by police involving formal interviews with 284 individuals, 25,000 pages of witness statement transcripts and some 34 million pages of documentation relating to the operation of the Pike River Mine, Detective Read says.
Up to 16 police investigators have been involved at any one time and a range of experts have provided technical input to the investigation. Advice has also been sought from Crown Law and the Crown Solicitor.
However at this time police believe this matter is most appropriately dealt with through the health and safety prosecutions led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Detective Read says.
"I should also add that this decision is based on the best information available to police at this time. It is possible that at some point in the future re-entry to the mine might be achieved allowing a scene examination to be completed," he says.
"However I stress there is no certainty that this would produce any new relevant information. Even if new information was identified, there is no guarantee that it would lead to a future prosecution."
Melissa Byrne, whose fiancee Samuel Peter Mackie, 26, died in the mine explosion, told Campbell Live the decision was "wrong".
The families gathered sat in total silence after the announcement, she said.
"We've never been that quiet," she said.
"It was such a weird silence. I don't think any of us knew what to say."
She said their men deserved justice.
"[When] people are murdered . . . people fight to get the guilty people charged and punished. As far as I'm concerned, it should be the same [for Pike]."