Coal company sentenced for Pike River deaths

PIKE River Coal Ltd has been handed a landmark sentence for health and safety failings that led to the deaths of 29 men.

The company was this morning sentenced in Greymouth District Court.

Judge Jane Farish ordered the company to pay reparation to the grieving families and two survivors of $110,000 each.

Judge Farish said she could not put a value on the loss of life or compensate for psychological harm.

Victim impact statements delivered to the court yesterday by grieving families were harrowing, Judge Farish said, her voice cracking. It was clear emotional trauma had been suffered.

She awarded the families and two survivors $110,000 each, and said she was satisfied there was the means for reparation to be paid.

The company is in receivership and has indicated it only has enough money to pay $5000 to each family.

Pike River Coal was found guilty in April on nine charges laid under the Health and Safety in Employment Act in relation to the horrific November 19, 2010 explosions which killed 29 coal miners.

In emotional scenes yesterday, 20 victim impact statements were delivered to the court by grieving family members or read out aloud by lawyers - expressing relatives' despair and frustration that Pike River Coal had not taken full responsibility for the tragedy.

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment lawyer Mark Zarifeh yesterday called for Pike River Coal to pay massive fines and reparation of up to $125,000 for each of the dead men, labelled the tragedy the "employer-related disaster of a generation".

He submitted that the company should pay cumulative fines at or near maximum levels for all nine charges it faced, as well as reparation of $60,000-125,000 for each bereaved family and substantial reparation for the two men who survived.

But Judge Farish had questioned whether the court could order fines and reparations from Pike River Coal if it was effectively not trading, and was an "empty shell" of a company.

- Greymouth Star



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