Families of loved ones who died in the 2011 Canterbury Television building collapse have today called on the New Zealand Government and the Solicitor-General to review the "offensive" decision not to prosecute anyone over the disaster.
Professor Maan Alkaisi, on behalf of the CTV Families, said at a press conference this afternoon 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.
The CTV Families Group met with representatives of the police, Crown Law, and the Christchurch Crown Solicitor in December where they received a briefing on the background to the decision and were provided with an opportunity to ask questions.
The group have since completed an analysis of new documents released under the Official Information Act, which revealed police took serious issue with parts of the Crown Law review and showed that detectives were unconvinced by the conclusion of the Deputy Solicitor-General that there should be no prosecutions but eventually fell into line.
Today, the families have sent a formal request to Attorney-General David Parker, along with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Justice Minister Andrew Little, calling for the decision not to prosecute to be reassessed.
They say that during a meeting on December 14 last year, Deputy Solicitor-General Brendon Horsley said he was not aware that the CTV Building's engineer Alan Reay had been given two opportunities – in 1986 and in 1990 - to "make the building safe to occupy".
"Mr Horsley looked right to Peter Read [the detective superintendent overseeing the police investigation] and left to [Christchurch Crown Solicitor] Mark Zarifeh, indicating that he did not know about these factors and stated that they had not told him about them," Alkaisi said today.
"[Horsley] said, 'This could be used to press charges… for negligence'."
After three years of investigation, police initially decided to lay criminal charges – 115 charges of manslaughter – against the two engineers, Reay and David Harding.
The CTV families now believe that the decision-makers came to their conclusion not to prosecute without taking into account all information.
"[It is] simply outrageous that the person who essentially took the whole decision and advised the police to change their decision was not aware of all the facts," said Alkaisi, whose wife Maysoon Abbas died in the collapse.
"We have informed the Attorney-General that we found the explanations given for the decision unsatisfactory and concerning.
"We maintain that the CTV case is justified and must go to trial to ensure just judgement without external interferences.
"We ask for justice and accountability and we will never give up until justice is done."
Tim Elms, who lost his daughter Teresa McLean in the CTV Building, pleaded for the Government to "do the right thing".
Civil actions have been ruled out by lawyers and he said a criminal prosecution was the "last chance for some accountability".
"You are our last chance. Those we lost deserve it," Elms said.