A move by New Zealand Police to today defend its decision not to lay manslaughter charges over the 2011 Canterbury Television building collapse in Christchurch despite "significant" design deficiencies has further angered grieving families.
Professor Maan Alkaisi, on behalf of the CTV Families, said at a press conference last week in Christchurch, held near the CTV Building site where 115 people died when it pancaked during the magnitude-6.3 earthquake of February 22, 2011, that "significant evidence" and critical issues were not considered when the decision not to lay charges was made.
Police announced last November that it will not pursue criminal charges – a decision made after lengthy "complex, technical" investigation involving expert engineering advice, reconstruction and examination of structural elements of the building, excavation of the CTV site, plus legal reviews by the Christchurch Crown Solicitor and Crown Law.
The decision dismayed many families of loved ones who died in the tragedy.
Now, police have issued a statement in response to the families' calls to review the move.
Detective Superintendent Peter Read, who led the lengthy probe, said police stood by their view that the decision not to prosecute was correct when all the relevant evidence and opinions were taken into account.
"The decision not to prosecute was made by police after considering the advice of the Christchurch Crown Solicitor and the Deputy Solicitor-General and meeting with them to discuss that advice," he said in the unsolicited statement.
Alkaisi said on behalf of the families that the Deputy Solicitor-General did not appear to be aware of all the relevant facts regarding the decision and emphasised that there had been opportunities to rectify design problems in the building, but which the families believed the Deputy Solicitor-General was not aware of.
Both of these matters were "expressly considered" by the Crown Solicitor in his report and the Deputy Solicitor-General in his peer review, police said.
"Those matters were also addressed in the Canterbury Earthquake Royal Commission report, the Beca report and the police report - all of which were considered as part of the investigation and decision making process," Read said.
The statement acknowledged that police did "fully agree'' that there were significant deficiencies in the building's design. Those deficiencies were all noted as part of the initial police investigation and by the Royal Commission and was also considered by expert opinions sought at the time.
"However the Deputy Solicitor-General and ultimately the Crown Solicitor and police considered the evidential test was not met," Read said.
"Police concluded, and remain satisfied, that there was no reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction in this case."
Police acknowledged it has been a difficult time for the families of those killed.
"We have tried to be as open and transparent as we can in publishing information to assist in their understanding of the complex, technical issues involved.''
Today, Alkaisi was angered and disappointed by the police statement.
"I wrote the letter and supporting affidavits to the Attorney-General, so I was expecting a response from the Attorney-general, not police. I did not send any document to police, or the Deputy Solicitor-General, or Crown Law," said Alkaisi, whose wife Maysoon Abbas died in the collapse.
Attorney-General David Parker this afternoon confirmed to the Herald that he had received a request from Alkaisi that he direct the Solicitor-General to reconsider the police's decision to not prosecute the engineers involved in the design of the CTV building.
However, Parker said: "It is not appropriate for me to engage in prosecution decisions in individual cases or to make such a request of the Solicitor-General. I have forwarded the request to the Solicitor-General for her consideration."
Alkaisi says that before New Zealand Police released its statement this afternoon, he had not received any response from anyone regarding his appeal for a review.
And now he remains unsure whether his request is still under consideration.
"You would think the 115 lives deserve some respect," he said.
"How do you trust the system when the top lawyers behave like this? How do you trust that all of the facts have really been taken into consideration.
"Why didn't they ask me before releasing any statements to discuss any points I may have? They have immediately dismissed the whole thing.
"After seven years [since the quake] and 16 officers, including a solicitor, spent three years on the case, they came up with the decision to go ahead with 115 manslaughter charges. What was the new evidence that goes against all the other evidence that we have? To this day, I still don't know what their argument is to not go ahead with the prosecution. Tell us so that everybody knows."