7 Jul 2016

MSD seeks stay of Ashburton WINZ hearing

1:28 pm on 7 July 2016

A lawyer for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has asked a judge to stay a disputed facts hearing of a case arising from the murder of two of its Ashburton staff in 2014.

Earlier this week the Ministry pleaded guilty in the Wellington District Court to failing to take all practicable steps to ensure its staff were safe, but it disputed WorkSafe's claim that the layout of its Ashburton office was unsafe for staff.

Peggy Noble and Leigh Cleveland were shot dead at Work and Income's Ashburton Office on 1 September 2014, and in May their killer, Russell John Tully was jailed for 27 years for the murders.

MSD's lawyer, Brent Stanaway, told Judge Doogue this morning that his client's guilty plea had recognised it was in breach of five of the six steps which could have been taken to keep staff safe.

He said the evidence given by WorkSafe's three expert witnesses this week appeared to suggest there were three options as to what the alleged breach relating to the office layout actually meant in practical terms.

Mr Stanaway said that was unfair to MSD and compared it to "trying to pick up mercury with a pair of chopsticks".

Judge Doogue has reserved her decision on that point and will give a ruling tomorrow morning.

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