A lawyer who acts for the families of those killed in the
Pike River Mine disaster says further prosecution against mine
boss Peter Whittall is not realistic.
In a shock development yesterday, all charges against Mr
Whittall, the former boss of Pike River Coal, were dropped at
Christchurch District Court, the Crown saying it was "not
appropriate to continue with the prosecution".
Nicholas Davidson, QC, who represented the families at the
Royal Commission of Inquiry and has continued to act for some
of them on a pro bono basis, said it was unlikely the
families could take any further action against Mr Whittall.
"There's no suggestion of [a private prosecution being
launched] and, realistically, there's no funding for such a
thing. There are enormous complexities around it - a private
prosecution in the case of a regulatory offence like this may
not be available at all. But it's simply not on the agenda in
terms of any formal discussion that I've had with families
I've spoken with.
"They're having to get used to the whole proposition that,
where things have gone so appallingly wrong as a result of
individuals' conduct, it's not going to be tested in this
Mr Davidson said the families were shocked by the
"The thousands of questions they have about the circumstances
and individuals who were involved in what happened at Pike
River are never going to come out now.
"They feel immensely thwarted but more fundamentally they
were shocked that, where there has been so much fault by
people as we now know, that no one carries the can for this
at all. They find this incomprehensible."
Mr Davidson said it was "most unusual" for a prosecution of
this nature to be abandoned.
"This process is one that's been gone into with enormous
thoroughness by the police and the Department of Labour in
their combined investigation with staggering amounts of
evidence available," he said.
"One would have thought that would have run its course and
until two or three days ago that was the case. We now know
that the prosecution has been struggling to the point it had
real doubts about ... the result and the value of pressing on
with public money."
Instead of being prosecuted, Mr Whittall and Pike River Coal
offered a voluntary payment on behalf of the directors and
officers of the company to the families of the 29 victims and
the two survivors.
Anna Osborne, who lost her husband Milton, called this "blood
Lawyer Colin Smith, who also acts for some of the families,
said the decision not to prosecute meant getting into the
mine and recovering the men's bodies now took on a new
It could form the basis for further prosecution as analysis
of the bodies could result in manslaughter or other charges
Mr Smith said that was the last chance the families had for a