'Are you waiting for another disaster?' - Pressure mounts on Government to introduce corporate manslaughter law

Justice Minister Andrew Little has reaffirmed his hope for a corporate manslaughter charge to be added to the Crimes Act, as part of a significant overhaul of the law that’s expected late next year.

Mr Little said officials are investigating the conviction’s place in both the United Kingdom’s and Canada’s criminal law, and that at this stage, their use in both jurisdictions has been reviewed as successful.

Mr Little said he has been supportive of the charge becoming part of New Zealand’s law for several years and a report is being worked on at the moment, which will be returned to the minister with a draft of the legislation.

The charge means a company or group of people can be held accountable for the death of a person due to gross negligence.

Last year, UK police announced it suspected it had reasonable grounds to use the charge in the case of the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017, which left 71 people dead.

It comes as Maan Alkaisi, husband of CTV building collapse victim Maysoon Abbas, is calling for this Government to act urgently to introduce the law.

Returning to the CTV site today, he told 1 NEWS that the families of the 115 people that died when the building collapsed in the February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake feel there’s been no justice or accountability for what happened.

No charges were laid after the police investigation ended last year.

"There is still a lot of gaps in our legal system. People can get away with murder and we have really to do something about it," he said.

"We know why this building collapsed, we know who is responsible, we know all the details, and yet no action's been taken – we feel that’s unfair."

Mr Alkaisi said the families had worked with a law firm to investigate the case for corporate manslaughter to be introduced into New Zealand law four years ago, and had since taken their findings to the previous Government, who told them it wasn't a priority.

Director of Victoria University's Centre for Labour, Employment and Work, Dr Stephen Blumenfeld, also wants the law introduced, claiming our justice system still has no serious criminal punishment for work-related deaths at the hands of corporations.

"New Zealand is at the top of the pile when it comes to workplace fatalities, unfortunately," Mr Blumenfeld said.

"We still don't have a corporate manslaughter law so an individual could not really be held accountable for what happened in those cases, which is what was desired with Peter Whittall, the CEO of Pike River and also in the case of the two engineers in the collapse of the CTV building."

He said the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 as well as the Justice Minister's legislation to repeal the 'year and a day' law, under which currently no one can be held criminally responsible for the killing of another more than a year and a day after its cause, does not go far enough in putting accountability on companies.

Health and Safety lawyer Greg Cain disagrees, saying the Health and Safety Act gives a significant level of deterrence already, stating how companies can be fined up to $3mil and individuals can be imprisoned for up to five years.

Mr Blumenfeld said corporate negligence isn't mentioned directly in the Health and Safety Act so punishments in this area are unclear.

Mr Cain said the introduction of tougher health and safety regulations have created paranoia in workforces from schools to major companies, and said further restrictions were likely to have a greater impact.

He said many New Zealand workforces are starting to understand the importance of health and safety rules and are trying to drive change in this area.

"If you suddenly introduce a law that allows individuals to be sent to jail for much longer periods than previously was the case or subjected to unlimited fines, the deterrent effect could be more about people not wanting to become company directors than it could be about stopping them being lazy on health and safety duties," he said.

"Do we also want to encourage people to either not become company directors or spend their days filling out forms in order to try and cover themselves in health and safety terms, which we've got far too much of already, and it’s not driving better outcomes in this area.”

Dr Stephen Blumenfeld argued that there haven't been employment issues where the law is in the place overseas.

Mr Cain said the charge hasn't led to many successful prosecutions in the United Kingdom.

He said it's a difficult charge to prosecute under as it has to be proven there's been a gross departure from a standard of care that caused someone to die and an individual has to be found guilty of manslaughter, and then have that act attributed to the company.

Mr Cain said it was an option for Health and Safety fine limits and imprisonment periods to be extended.

He said one benefit of a corporate manslaughter charge is the attribution of a higher level of seriousness to health and safety offending, rather that incidents just being known as a 'breach.'

There is growing concern NZ companies still lack culpability for work-related deaths after Pike River and the CTV building collapse. Source: 1 NEWS

The Hastings' Four Square that sold four winning first division Lotto tickets

Hastings was the lucky home to four winning first division Lotto tickets last night.

Flaxmere's Scott Drive Four Square was the winning shop and TVNZ1's Seven Sharp meet with the owner.

"We have five first division winners in Flaxmere, and we have got four of them," owner Becky Gee said.

"Usually one shop gets one but one shop got four, unbelievable."

Last night there were 40 first division winners, who each get $25,000.

Ms Gee says she doesn’t know who the winners were yet, but says hopefully she’ll find out soon.

"Hopefully it’ll go to people who need it, to pay a lot of bills."

Lotto confirmed that one person purchased four of the winning tickets, which means they take home $100,000.

It turns out Scott Drive Four Square is where to buy a winning ticket. Source: Seven Sharp


Watch: Three re-entry options for Pike River Mine explained in 3D graphic

Mining experts are gathered in Greymouth to look at the risks involved in the three re-entry options for the Pike River Mine, and 1 NEWS has explained the options using a 3D graphic.

The bodies of 29 men remain in the West Coast mine following an explosion on November 19  2010. Re-entry would allow experts to search for the bodies and gather evidence about the disaster.

The project is so unique the army have been called on to help with planning. Source: 1 NEWS

The graphic shows the lie of the land above the mine and two distinct areas of the mine underground.

The mine drift, or access tunnel, starts from the entrance to the mine and runs 2.29 kilometres to what's known as the workings.

The workings are where the coal was being extracted and were the last locations of the 29 miners. The workings area contains a network of more than four kilometres of tunnels.

The first re-entry option is going in through the current entrance as it is now, with no secondary exit.

The second is the same but with a large bore hole made to provide a means of escape.

The other option is to create a new two-metre by two-metre tunnel about 200 metres long from up on a hill, to connect with another area for ventilation and a second exit.

Safety is the biggest priority and the findings will be reviewed over the next month.

After an explosion at the West Coast mine on 19 November 2010, the bodies of 29 men remain in the mine. Source: 1 NEWS


Taranaki man denies killing Waitara teenager in crash

A Taranaki man charged with dangerous driving causing death following an accident that killed a Waitara teenager last month has denied the offence.

The 37-year-old appeared in the New Plymouth District Court today where he also pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of cannabis, possession of utensils to consume methamphetamine, speeding and refusing to give a blood sample.

On 28 August, Olivia Renee Keightley-Trigg, 18, died after the man allegedly crashed into her on State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Waitara.

The court heard that at about 6am the defendant was travelling towards New Plymouth when he crossed double yellow lines while overtaking another vehicle and drove into the path of Ms Keightley-Trigg.

Keightley-Trigg is one of 12 people to have been killed on the stretch of SH3 in the last 10 years.

The defendant was granted interim name suppression until 26 September, pending an appeal being filed over its potential lifting.

Defence counsel Paul Keegan argued that publication of the defendant's name could prejudice his right to a fair trial.

But Crown prosecutor Detective Sergeant Dave MacKenzie disagreed, telling the court that the defendant's right to a fair trial could be protected via other means.

Judge Garry Barkle said he was inclined to lift the name suppression in the interests of open justice but noted Mr Keegan had signalled his intention to appeal any such decision.

Judge Barkle therefore extended interim name suppression until 4pm on 26 September, pending an appeal.

The defendant, who has elected trial by jury, was remanded in custody to reappear on 22 November for a case review.


Olivia Renee Keightley-Trigg.
Olivia Renee Keightley-Trigg. Source: NZ Police

Christchurch Hospital sees seven people suffering severe affects of synthetic cannabis in 24 hours

Seven people have been treated in the last 24 hours at Christchurch Hospital's Emergency Department who're thought be be severely affected by synthetic cannabis.

In a statement the hospital says the emergency department has seen a number of people suffering from "probable severe synthetic cannabis toxicity, with seven people treated in the past 24 hours and three needing admission to the Intensive Care Unit".

Paul Gee, Emergency Medicine Specialist, Canterbury DHB says there has been a noticeable increase in patient attendances at the Emergency Department for side effects of synthetic cannabis use. 

He says some have minor adverse effects but others are more serious. Last month a man suffered a cardiac arrest after using synthetic cannabis but was successfully resuscitated.

Toxicology analysis has identified the substance taken by the patients as either AMB-FUBINACA or AB-FUBINACA.

AMB-FUBINACA has been linked to numerous deaths in the North Island during the past year.

"There are dangerous synthetic drugs available and taking them could seriously harm or kill you," Dr Gee said.

Drug and addiction help can be accessed at Tuhauora, Christchurch’s Central Coordination Service chchaod@odysseychch.org.nz or call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797.

They're calling for the drug to be classified as Class A – the most harmful and dangerous.
Source: 1 NEWS