25 Feb 2014

Engineers called in over CTV review

11:52 am on 25 February 2014

Police have brought in an engineering firm to see if they can lay criminal charges against the designer of the CTV building which collapsed in the Christchurch earthquake.

Officers have been trawling through the Royal Commission's findings since 2012, and now Beca has been commissioned to give an expert opinion.

The CTV building in March 2011.

The CTV building in March 2011. Photo: AFP / USAR

The CTV building pancaked when the 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the South Island city on 22 February 2011. Of the 185 people killed in the quake, 115 died in that building.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read says police want to know whether there is enough evidence to start a criminal investigation with a view laying charges against designer Alan Reay and others, including manslaughter.

Mr Read told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Monday the review will canvas a number of areas, including whether the design was completed to an accepted standard.

He warned the burden of proof is extremely high in any criminal trial. For a prosecution to begin an individual would have to be found guilty, as there is no charge of corporate manslaughter in New Zealand.

Among the CTV building's occupants was an English language school and the Government says it is keeping families of the victims informed about the new investigation.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesperson said a private briefing was held in Christchurch on Monday morning for families of Japanese victims because they requested one.

They were told that police have engaged the engineering company to help them decide whether a criminal investigation into the disaster is needed.

The spokesperson says 77 foreign nationals died in the quake and Monday's information was translated into several languages including Korean, Thai, simplified Chinese and Japanese and distributed to other foreigners who lost family.

New Zealand victims' families were posted letters with the information on Monday.

Maan Alkaisi's wife Maysoon Mahdi Abbas was killed in the CTV building and he is pleased police are considering laying criminal charges.

However Mr Alkaisi, who co-chairs the Christchurch Earthquake Families Group, told Checkpoint police could have moved more quickly on this investigation, saying families want to move on and it is frustrating that they have waited several years for something to happen.

Coroner's findings due

The Ministry of Justice says the release of a coroner's findings into the CTV building deaths is imminent. Gordon Matenga conducted the inquest in Christchurch in late 2012.

The ministry said on Monday the exact day or time of the release of the findings is not known, but families of the victims will see them first. It said many of the victims' families are overseas and the findings will have to be translated.