Ministry apologises over dead son's photos

  • 29/03/2017
Auckland high court ministry of justice sign
The Ministry of Justice will change its process for releasing coronial files (File)

The Ministry of Justice says it's changing its process for releasing coronial files after a woman was sent graphic photos of her dead son.

The woman this month requested the entire coronial file into the death of her teenage son, who committed suicide in 2012, and received police images of his dead body as part of the documents.

She told Radio NZ on Wednesday the photos were "horrific" and graphic".

"I was shaking and crying because this is not something I ever wanted to see," she said, adding she did not request for the photos to be excluded because she wasn't aware they were part of the file.

She declined to identify herself other than as Ann Johns, to protect her son's identity.

In a statement, Ministry of Justice chief executive Andrew Bridgman apologised for the distress caused to the mother.

"I will be contacting her to convey my sincere regret at the anxiety caused by this event," he said.

"I will be letting her know that we have now changed our processes to ensure that this doesn't happen again."

Family members of the subjects of coronial inquests are allowed to request the full files of the cases and have access to material deemed too private to be issued to media.

A form on the Ministry of Justice website allows them to state specifically what they want included - but they can also make requests over email, meaning they may not have always been asked to complete the checklist or given warning.

Mr Bridgman said in future all families requesting complete files would be informed explicitly what was contained in them and asked what they wanted included and not.

"This will ensure only those parts of the file they want are sent to them," he said.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact

  • Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354.
  • Depression Helpline (8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
  • Healthline - 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email
  • What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1pm to 11pm) - 0800 942 8787
  • Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline)