Tal­ley’s fails in paral­y­sis case

Sunday Star-Times - - News - Martin van Bey­nen

Tal­ley’s Group has failed in a bid to avoid pros­e­cu­tion in a case that left a mother of two teenagers a para­plegic.

Te Atatu Hemi was work­ing at the com­pany’s veg­etable pro­cess­ing plant near Ash­bur­ton when a crate be­ing moved by fork­lift fell on her.

That was on May 22, 2015, and on Novem­ber

20 that year, one day be­fore the time limit for pros­e­cu­tion ex­pired, WorkSafe charged the com­pany with fail­ing to take all prac­ti­ca­ble steps to avoid in­jury to her, but did not pro­vide specifics.

Tal­ley’s pleaded not guilty and tried to have the case dis­missed, cit­ing de­fects in the pros­e­cu­tion process. The dis­trict court agreed, but WorkSafe went to the Court of Ap­peal, which has now ruled that those flaws were not se­ri­ous enough to in­val­i­date the pros­e­cu­tion.

The case high­lighted the way WorkSafe would file a hold­ing charge just be­fore the time limit ex­pired, pro­vid­ing de­tails later.

Only if a not guilty plea was en­tered did WorkSafe in­struct an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert to pre­pare a de­tailed re­port. In the Tal­ley’s case, this re­port listed a raft of safety short­com­ings.

The ap­peal court said it seemed WorkSafe’s process ap­peared to have ‘‘con­tin­ued un­re­marked upon by trial courts for some time’’.

WorkSafe had changed its prac­tice, and no sug­ges­tion of bad faith ex­isted, the court said.

Hemi said she hoped the pros­e­cu­tion could pro­ceed be­cause she be­lieved it was the best way to en­sure change.

She spent three months in Bur­wood’s spinal unit be­fore re­turn­ing to Tal­ley’s as a health and safety ad­viser.

The desk job was a dif­fi­cult ad­just­ment for the for­mer shearer, and she left af­ter two months.

She still woke up ev­ery day wish­ing she could walk, if only so she could do more with her two grand­chil­dren.

‘‘I re­ally didn’t un­der­stand the ef­fect it would have on my fam­ily. It wasn’t only me who was sen­tenced to a chair.’’

WorkSafe de­clined to com­ment, say­ing it had to wait to see if Tal­ley’s would ap­peal. Tal­ley’s said it had not de­cided.

Te Atatu Hemi

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