The Government is looking at introducing a corporate manslaughter charge after police decided not to prosecute over the collapse of the CTV Building in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Police announced yesterday that following a lengthy, in-depth investigation they would not lay charges in relation to the tragedy in which 115 people lost their lives .

"The investigation identified significant deficiencies in the building's design, and police considered charges of negligent manslaughter," Detective Superintendent Peter Read said.

"However after very careful consideration of all the information, legal advice and expert opinion available to us, police have concluded the evidence available is not sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction in court."

Advertisement

Speaking to Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB this morning, Justice Minister Andrew Little said he respected the police's decision but said the law they were required to adhere to needed to be looked at.

"It was clear from other investigations that there's been a level of negligence involved by people who've designed and put up the building.

"Yet the building falls down, 115 lives lost and everybody walks away scot-free, and that just doesn't seem right."

The Government was looking at introducing a corporate manslaughter law; something that was considered by the previous Government and that exists in jurisdictions elsewhere in the world.

"I think it's regarded as spectacularly unsuccessful in the UK but actually reasonably successful in Canada so I think I'll first need to go and have a look at all of that. But in the end, we're a coalition government that needs everybody to agree," Little said.

The "obvious" people or organisations to be charged under such a law would be the engineers and the architects behind the building's construction.

Those involved with inspecting the building prior to its collapse could also be liable.

"It was given clearance [following the 2010 Earthquake] and after one of the aftershocks in December of 2010 before it finally fell in February of 2011," Little said.

"There's clearly acts of omission in there that people may not have taken care of. But I think you've got to have a legal framework that says, 'Actually, if you've got the responsibility of checking the safety of a building, you don't do it properly and it falls down and kills people, somebody has to be called to account."

Families of people who died in the building have said they will not give up in their quest for justice despite the police decision.

Mary Anne Jackson, a receptionist in the building who ran outside when the quake hit, said she was "gutted" by the decision not to prosecute the building owner.

"I think the families won't let it lie," she said. "He might think he's got away with it. He won't be."

Opposition leader Bill English said he would be willing to work with the Government to find a solution to what he described as a "large-scale tragedy" that should be subject to legal liability.

"It does raise the question that if the Royal Commission says the building didn't meet the standards of the time, then you'd expect there to be some liability for that. We'd be happy to work with the Government over whether there's a problem there and how it can be solved."

In announcing the decision not to prosecute, Read said the investigation cost $1.18 million, including $1.15m in expert advice, excluding police salary costs.

Up to 13 police at any one time worked on the case and examined over 18,000 documents.

He said police were "acutely aware that there will be disappointment with this decision, particularly for the families and friends of those who died in this tragedy".

"The issues have been very difficult and finely balanced, particularly as the advice and expert opinion has evolved as the investigation progressed," he said.

"Ultimately, the decision must be based on the evidence before us and the thresholds we must meet."