The decision not to prosecute the designers of the CTV building has caused enormous distress among many of the families and friends of those who lost their lives when the building collapsed on February 22, 2011.
When something so catastrophic happens, it is natural to want accountability, and the decision not to proceed stripped away one of the last remaining vestiges of hope that someone would be called to account.
I know many of the family members from my days as a MP and, more recently, as mayor. My heart goes out to each and every one of them.
I truly believed the decision would be otherwise.
The local Crown Law advice was to prosecute. That local advice came from those who had been through the Royal Commission hearings from start to finish.
And yet the deputy solicitor general’s interpretation of the prosecution guidelines determined otherwise. I am aware that there are calls for changes to the law and I am certainly in favour of change but not for change’s sake. A charge of corporate manslaughter, had it been available, would have failed all the same tests in this case. Perhaps attention should turn to the prosecution decision itself – who makes the call and what are the appropriate guidelines?
But that must not divert us from the real issues. When I first met the bereaved families as mayor, they told me their guiding principles were to be inclusive and to use their knowledge and experience for future good. Their overriding message was that we honour the people lost in the earthquake by learning lessons from what happened.
We must continue to focus on those lessons.
I re-read the CTV Building chapter of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission of inquiry after I became mayor.
It brought back memories of another Royal Commission report I had read as a young law student – that was the result of the Erebus disaster. When you know the outcome, the signposts are crystal clear as you read the findings; page after page inexorably leads to the tragic conclusion.
In the Erebus case, there were 10 factors, and take away any one of which may have meant the tragedy did not occur.
From its very inception such was the case with the CTV Building – from the drawing board to the fact the CTV Building was occupied on that fateful day – the signposts were there.
We need to be confident that today such signposts would be points of intervention that would prevent tragedies such as this occurring again.
Only then can we say we have honoured the memory of those who died.
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