7 Sep 2015

Officer said forestry death arrest wrong, court told

4:20 pm on 7 September 2015

The police officer who arrested a contractor charged with manslaughter said he did not believe he should have been charged, a court has heard

Paul Robert Burr

Paul Burr in court at the beginning of the trial. Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

Paul Burr, 47, is on trial over the death of 20-year-old Lincoln Kidd, who was crushed by a tree at a forestry block between Foxton and Levin in 2013. The trial is in its third week at the High Court in Palmerston North.

The jury in the trial has been reduced to eleven by Justice Brown, who discharged one member after a family bereavement.

Mr Burr is the first person charged with manslaughter over a forestry death.

His father-in-law, Rodney Caldow, told the court he was with his son-in-law when he was arrested.

"Paul had his feet ripped away from him as he thought he was going in to help with the coronial inquiry," said Mr Caldow.

Paul Burr's father-in-law, Rodney Caldow.

Rodney Caldow Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

He said the officer who made the arrest, Sergeant Andrew Collis, told them the order had not come from Levin, but higher up the food chain. "He said 'sorry, personally, I think this is wrong'."

Mr Caldow, who arrived on the scene in his role as a volunteer firefighter, said Mr Burr was desperately trying to revive his co-worker

"Paul was in focus, he was giving CPR, there was quite a lot of blood around him. I've seen guys in a lot of years in those situations and people run around like headless chooks - when we pulled up, Paul was in control of what he was doing. He had checked all the vitals and knew what he was doing," Mr Caldow told the court.

"As soon as he was taken away from what he was doing, it was pretty clear Paul was going to need some assistance. I took Paul away from the scene and at that stage he went into shock. I said in my statement he had a few smokes, but I think it was more like packets."

Mr Caldow said his son-in-law told him he had checked to whether Mr Kidd was behind him before he started working.

"He told me he sat in the digger, he had done a 360 in the digger, there was no one behind him, and he assumed he was on his own and carried on harvesting."

At the opening of the case last month, lead defence counsel Jonathan Temm told the court that by charging Mr Burr, WorkSafe New Zealand was looking to lay down a marker as the new regulator in the forestry industry.

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk, in his opening statement, said Mr Burr had an indifferent attitude to safety and did not give his staff the proper training.

"There was nothing in the environment that caused Lincoln Kidd's death... Mr Burr is the one who failed," he said.

He said Mr Kidd was only seven metres from the harvester when the tree came down.

A WorkSafe forestry expert, Phillip Jennings, told the High Court in Palmerston North that work conditions at Mr Burr's site were unsafe.

He said Mr Burr's team should not have been using cell phones as their only means of radio communication.

Mr Jennings said Mr Kidd was wearing the wrong hi-vis jacket, and Mr Burr failed to consider all of the site's potential hazards.