16 Dec 2013

Pike prosecution case on hold

1:37 pm on 16 December 2013

The man intending to file a private prosecution over the Pike River mine disaster says he is putting the case on hold for a few months while he consults with the victims' families.

The mother of one of the 29 workers killed in the explosions at the West Coast mine in November 2010 says a private prosecution could jeopardise any hope the families have of getting justice.

Graham McCready.

Graham McCready. Photo: RNZ

Retired accountant Graham McCready had made plans for a private prosecution against Peter Whittall after health and safety charges against the former Pike River Coal chief executive were dropped.

He wanted to file court papers alleging involuntary manslaughter for each of the 29 men who died, but could now reduce that to a single representative charge naming one victim.

Mr McCready says pursuing the prosecution is now on hold until after he speaks with the families, which he plans to do in March.

Carol Rose, who lost her son Stuart Mudge in the disaster, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the case would have the potential to derail legal action the families have already planned.

"Rather than commencing legal action now, the families want to wait until we get into the mine where the correct forensic procedure is completed and we have powerful and sufficient evidence which we would expect would ensure a conviction on all of the parties that are responsible for the deaths of the 29 men."

Peter Whittall.

Peter Whittall. Photo: AFP

Ms Rose said Mr McCready's intentions are good but the families would like him to step back, as they may not be able to pursue their own prosecutions if he fails in his legal action.

Mr McCready said enough evidence is already available and re-entering the mine won't be necessary for an involuntary manslaughter prosecution.

Peter Whittall was the only individual charged and faced 12 counts brought by the former Department of Labour over his role in a series of explosions at the West Coast mine that began on 19 November 2010 in which 29 men died and two survived.

The charges were dropped on Thursday after the Crown decided that it was unlikely to get a successful prosecution. Mr Whittall and other directors and officers of Pike River Coal have offered to make a voluntary compensation payment of $3.4 million to the families of the victims and the two survivors. It is money from the directors' own insurance.