A woman who suffered a permanent back injury after a boat ride in the Bay of Islands is "furious" a court has quashed the conviction and sentence of the company and the vessel's former owner.
Raewyn Russell broke her back in October 2014 while riding in high speed vessel Mack Attack, owned by Paihia-based Seafort Holdings, whose sole director and shareholder was Richard John Prentice.
The 60-year-old Havelock North resident and her husband, Craig, had booked a trip for the second day of their break in the north after spotting an advertisement for Mack Attack jet boat rides. The boat is no longer owned by Prentice.
Four years on, Russell still suffers back pain and said she could not stand for long. She was bedridden for three months, went through months of physiotherapy and had to give up her career as a manager and travelling salesperson.
Maritime New Zealand ordered Prentice to pay $32,630 in reparation and the company was fined another $55,000. He was fined a further $5500 for failing to take practical steps to help keep passengers safe.
Seafort Holdings was fined $90,000 following a similar incident in 2012 when a 53-year-old female passenger was left a paraplegic after a rough trip in the Bay of Islands. And company also ran into issues in 2013 when Mack Attack was involved in a near-miss incident with a ferry.
Prentice and his company successfully appealed to the High Court against their sentence and conviction for the 2014 incident — a decision that annoyed Russell who had earlier called for harsher consequences.
"I am furious that he can get his licence back and do it to somebody else. I am just one of the many who has suffered but there's nothing I can do about it. That's the justice system in New Zealand," she said.
Russell said she could not go back to her old job as a sales' rep and lived in constant pain.
Maritime NZ said it was disappointed with the High Court's decision but would not appeal.
In May 2016, Maritime NZ cancelled Prentice's New Zealand Coastal Master Certificate and Commercial Launchmaster Certificate under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 after an
internal review panel considered Prentice's involvement in historical incidents and other matters and summarised them under four patterns of behaviour.
Prentice appealed the revocation decision to the District Court and won.
He also appealed his sentence and conviction and a ruling issued by Justice Simon France said there was a dearth of evidence concerning a heightened risk for old and overweight passengers on board the vessel.
The charges against Prentice and his company related to them not telling "old" and "overweight" passengers there was a heightened risk of back injuries resulting from jolting if they were seated in the front seats.
That failure, the second charge said, created unnecessary danger or risk to those passengers who may have chosen a different seat if risks were outlined.
Prentice and his company successfully argued it could not be shown there was a greater risk to passengers in the front seats and, if there was, that risk was mitigated by the use of D-type spring seats.
Justice France said "older" was plainly in the eye of the beholder and that one would have expected a more concrete criteria such as identifying a particular age.
Likewise, he questioned the definition of "overweight" and said evidence did not establish why those two groups of people had to be warned.
"Presumably the theory is that because of their status as older or overweight these people have characteristics that carry greater risk when exposed to the alleged heightened movement of the front seats.
"However, what those characteristics are is elusive, and not established by the evidence," Justice France said.
Prentice could not be reacherd for comment yesterday.