Families welcome CTV probe

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014

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The families of the 115 people killed in the CTV building collapse have welcomed the hiring of engineers to help police decide whether anyone will be charged over the deaths.

The most severe charge a person could face if prosecuted for the February 22 earthquake collapse is manslaughter, with potential lesser charges including criminal nuisance.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read said police had asked national engineering firm Beca to review information about the building's collapse.

There was a lot of work to be done to determine what, if any, charges could be laid.

Much of the information shared with the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission in 2012 was relevant for the police investigation but the commission's terms of reference had not made any determinations about liability, he said.

The standard of proof needed in a criminal prosecution was of a far higher threshold, with police having to establish facts "beyond reasonable doubt".

Read said police had to determine that a crime had been committed by an individual, as there was no charge of corporate manslaughter under New Zealand law.

"We also need to be sure there is sufficient evidence available to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any person charged with a crime."

Maan Alkaisi, whose wife Maysoon Abbas died in the building, said he welcomed the police move.

"It is pleasing that they have taken another step in their investigation."

Geoff Brien said it had been a long three years since his wife, Pam, was killed in the CTV collapse.

"I reckon they should prosecute. I want heads to roll over this. That building should never have got off the design board, it was an absolute dog."

Read said a panel of senior engineers at Beca - some with experience of 1980s Christchurch, when the CTV building was designed - would assess reports from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and a coroner's inquest in 2012.

It is understood coroner Gordon Matenga's formal findings from the inquest - which aimed to determine the causes and circumstances of all deaths related to the February 2011 earthquake - are due to be released within the next week.

Read said Beca's assessment would be subject to an international peer review and police expected to make a final decision about a criminal investigation by September.

"It's a hugely complex, technical area with a whole lot of competing things we have to look at . . . and on that we need expert opinion."

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Read said a private briefing was held in Christchurch yesterday morning for the families of Japanese victims and attended by one representative for the families of New Zealand victims.

Police spokesman Stephen Hill said the meeting was a private one organised specifically at the request of the Japanese families and co-ordinated by MBIE.

Other meetings had been held late last year for New Zealand-based families and all information presented yesterday was sent to other families in New Zealand and overseas, he said.

John Hare, of Holmes Consulting Group, said he had "no idea" what the police's review would conclude, but believed the case was "a matter of high public interest". He expected to be questioned as part of their review because he had given evidence to the Royal Commission, and was unable to comment further.

The CTV building was designed by Christchurch engineer Alan Reay's firm in 1986.

Reay has also challenged the legal right of the Institution of Professional Engineers (Ipenz) to investigate him after complaints about his engineering activities.

Ipenz chief executive Dr Andrew Cleland said the police were looking to determine whether a criminal offence had taken place, whereas Ipenz was considering whether there had been a professional breach. "[Ipenz's findings] are not affected by whatever the police decide," he said.

Reay's lawyer, Willie Palmer, said he could not provide comment last night.

TIMELINE 1986:

The CTV Building is designed by Christchurch engineer Alan Reay's firm and granted building consent.

January 1990: Holmes Consulting Group prepares a building structural report for a potential purchaser. The report notes concerns about the tying of floors to some shear walls.

December 1990: Madras Equities buys the building and leases it to ANZ Bank.

September 2010: After the 7.1 quake, the building is green-stickered after two quick assessments by the city council.

October 2010: Building deemed safe to occupy.

February 22, 2011: The CTV Building collapses during a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 115 people. 

- The Press

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