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WINZ incidents on rise before killings

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/03/2015
There numerous security incidents in the three years before the killings of two Ashburton WINZ workers © Getty There numerous security incidents in the three years before the killings of two Ashburton WINZ workers

Ministry of Social Development staff were subjected to numerous security incidents in the three years before the killings of two Ashburton WINZ workers, including 23 cases of death threats, bomb threats, intimidation or arson.

And figures show incidents deemed serious - which include stalking, intimidation, threats to harm and physical harm requiring medical treatment - have been increasing since the start of 2011.

On Monday, WorkSafe NZ charged the Ministry of Social Development with failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees while at work over the September 2014 shooting of Ashburton Work and Income workers Peg Noble and Leigh Cleveland.

Russell John Tully, 48, has been charged with their murders.

Figures released to NZ Newswire under the Official Information Act show the ministry's 290 offices around the country were subjected to 8475 security incidents from the start of 2011 to the end of August last year.

Twenty-three of the incidents were considered "critical" - the most severe category - and included nine threats to kill staff and eight bomb threats.

In all incidents, the police or the courts were involved and in many cases the offender was arrested, the ministry said.

The number of incidents categorised as serious has risen from 101 in 2011 to 140 events in the first eight months of 2014.

Each year there are over 1500 moderate incidents - which include assaults where there is no injury, aggression and abuse - and these also increased between 2011 and 2013.

"Abusive or threatening behaviour towards ministry staff is treated very seriously," the ministry said.

SECURITY INCIDENTS

* 2011: 1978 in total - 9 critical, 101 serious, 1515 moderate, 353 minor

* 2012: 2196 in total - 9 critical, 118 serious, 1704 moderate, 365 minor

* 2013: 2440 in total - 3 critical, 136 serious, 1930 moderate, 371 minor

* 2014 to August: 1861 in total - 2 critical, 140 serious, 1707 moderate, 12 minor.

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