|Pete Cahill, Sonya Rockhouse, Anna Osborne, Kath Monk, Helen Kelly, Bernie Monk |
Peter Cranney, Nigel Hampton QC, and Simon Meikle, outside the High Court today.
Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse filed an application for judicial review in the High Court against the District Court and 'Worksafe NZ' regarding the decision to drop twelve charges against mine manager Peter Whittall in consideration of a payment that equated to around $110,000 for each of the families of the miners killed - paid by the former company's insurers, the company, Pike River Coal Ltd having been sold with the dead men still inside it and gutted of its assets by the greedy, overpaid directors and executives of state owned Solid Energy, who profited at the expense of the grieving families.
Worksafe were formerly known as the Department of Labour, MoBIE (or the Moby Dicks as they were colloquially refered to), they were ultimately responsible for ensuring that safety systems were in place and in force at the mine, they knew that was not the case and turned a blind eye until the explosions killed twenty nine men. The application calls for a High Court judicial review of the District Court decision to drop the twelve charges against mine manager Peter Whittall.
This follows the ruling of Dobson J in February regarding the disclosure of documents regarding the decision to drop the charges against Whittall in exchange for a payment of money from the insurers of the Pike River mine.
The decision of Dobson J can be viewed AT THIS LINK.
Crucial to these matters of course is the Court file, and of grave concern to many New Zealanders is the "disgraceful" revelation that parts of the Court file have now 'conveniently' GONE MISSING.
The submissions at the High Court over the past two days have focused on the matter of prosecutorial decisions, how they are regulated (such regulation seems rather vague, limited and ineffective), how these decisions are arrived at, and most importantly, the scope to review them in the Courts, which is extremely limited. Despite this, Anna Osborne, Sonya Rockhouse, Kath and Bernie Monk and others are refusing to take the gross injustices heaped upon the families and friends of the twenty nine Pike River miners who died on or about 19 November 2010 when the unsafe mine exploded, killing them, and leaving the two survivors, one of whom is one of Mrs Rockhouse's son Daniel, who finally received recognition for his courage and integrity in saving the life of the only other survivor. Another son, Daniel's brother Ben, was killed in the explosions.
The review of the decision to drop the prosecutions against Whittall focused on the distinction between the question of "evidential sufficiency" or lack thereof as a reason to decide whether to initiate, proceed with or discontinue a prosecution, and then there was the matter of the "voluntary payment". The families were not even consulted about the decisions.
Lawyer Simon Meikle pointed out the terms of the Illegal Contracts Act at one point (section 3 defines illegal contracts and sections 6 and 7 go into further detail), and a number of legal arguments were skillfully put to the Court by Nigel Hampton QC who led the legal team for the Applicants. Questions were raised around the terms and intent of the Summary Proceedings and Criminal Proceedings Rules and Acts, matters of intricate jurisprudence, and the Court interacted in a positive and enquiring manner with Mr Hampton as he traversed the various arguments.
There are remarkably few precedent cases regarding the matter of prosecutorial decision making and the review of such decisions, and it was a privilege to listen to Mr Hampton and the Court exploring the legal parameters in such depth and detail.
Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the 2010 explosions at the Pike River mine, and Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben was killed, have asked for a judicial review into the Crown's decision to drop 12 health and safety charges against the former chief executive of Pike River Peter Whittall. They are supported by a number of members of the public, member of parliament Damian O'Connor, Helen Kelly and the CTU, and others.
Outside court today, Ms Osborne, told Lisa Davies of ONE News it was "ridiculous" that Mr Whittall had been cleared, adding that the "justice system is a joke" and that the families of the victims "don't want to be screwed over."
Nigel Hampton, the lawyer for the Pike River families, described the decision as "chequebook justice" and told the judicial review that it "struck at the heart of the New Zealand Justice system, setting a dangerous precedent that justice can be bought".
Mr Hampton told Justice Brendan Brown the circumstances should never have happened and that "it was an abuse of public interest and an abuse of the criminal justice system and its processes".
He told the court it was an unlawful and exceptional decision that led to the 12 charges being dropped on December 2013, despite the fact sufficient evidence existed - which is the Key fact of the matter.
He says "that was the quid pro quo really. Money was paid and the charges were dismissed".
"Is it justice for the rich?" he asked.
"That's what I suggest this comes to and that I suggest is a disastrous message to allow to be sent to the public, that justice in this country can be bought. It has never been thus."
He says the families "would rather see Peter Whittall made to answer".
Ms Rockhouse and Mrs Osborne have travelled to Wellington so they can attend the hearing in person, fought for 18 months for the case to be heard.
"Sonya and I couldn't let it go, because we just haven't had justice... to finally get our day in court is huge," says Mrs Osborne.
Worksafe lawyer Joanna Holden argued that the decision to drop the charges was lawful and reasonable, and not the result of an abuse of process. Her submissions sounded less than convincing, at least one lawyer present describing her submission as "ridiculous".
"The suggestion that Worksafe...that they failed to take into account the impact of the disaster is utterly and completely rejected" said Ms Holden, grasping at straws.
The families of the 29 men killed in the disaster were shocked and angry when the 12 charges were dropped against Mr Whittall in December 2013. A legal review by MoBIE - the entity that was formed when the Department of Labour was restructured in attempts to remove the Ministry (or "Department") from culpibility and association with the deaths of the twenty nine men - decided that the "likelihood of gaining a conviction was low".
That decision was clearly tainted by the involvement of the Department of Labour - MoBIE dicks, Worksafe, whatever you want to call them, they are one and the same, and their guilt was evidenced when the Minister, Kate Wilkinson resigned and the CEO did the same, in the wake of the Commission of Inquiry into the killing of the twenty nine men and the operation of the mine when all involved knew perfectly well that it was a disaster just waiting to happen. The decision is further tainted with the odious stench of corruption by the decision of Dobson J in ruling that the communication between Clown Prosecutor Brent Stanaway and others involved in the corrupt decision is protected from scrutiny, and the unbelievable excuse that parts of the Court file are suddenly and conveniently "missing".
The same day the charges were dropped, an un-named insurance company - who was the company - who are the shareholders of the insurance company and what conflicts of interest existed? - representing Whittall and the Directors of Pike River Coal Ltd offered a voluntary reparation payment of $110,000 to the families of each of the 29 victims and the two survivors. At the time the families labelled the pay out as "blood money". You'd have to wonder if it's an insurance company like AMI or AMP - who sponsor the grandstanding of 'journalists' like Paul Henry and Mike Hosking, in order to manipulate public opinion - the matter of "public interest" was discussed in Court - who measures public interest? How? NZ is PERCEIVED as being relatively free of corruption - the Key word is PERCEIVED - the media control how politicians are perceived and most New Zealanders are extremely naive!
Is that the cost of a human life in New Zealand in this day and age is it??? $110,000???
It is a damning indictment on our legal system when two women are forced to go to these lengths to get justice for the killing of a husband and a son and the loved sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, of twenty six other families, after a deal done behind their backs - which they were not even consulted about, let alone asked if they agreed with it, a deal cunningly set up by taxpayer funded lawyers in an act which was a corrupt abuse of Court process and utterly abhorrent to any right thinking person.
Direct link to the previous decision of Dobson J:
We await the reserved decision, this post will be updated when that is received and a link to it will be included.