Automatically charging hunters who accidentally shoot another person will do nothing to reduce the number of deaths, a firearms expert says.
And moves to make the hunting party as responsible as the shooter is just as problematic, says the Hamilton lawyer of a man accused of such a killing.
The recommendations were among a raft of measures proposed by Coroner Wallace Bain yesterday in his finding on the death of Lower Hutt school teacher Rosemary Ives.
Miss Ives was accidentally shot by Hamilton man Andrew Mears, who was spotlighting with a group of friends. He shot Miss Ives in Kaimanawa Forest Park near Turangi in 2010 after mistaking her head-lamp for deer's eyes as she was brushing her teeth at a campsite.
He was charged with manslaughter and served 11 months of a two-year jail term. Three others in his hunting party pleaded guilty to breaching their hunting permits by hunting after dark, and on Conservation Department land, and were fined $2500 each.
Mr Bain described Miss Ives' death as a needless and violent "tragedy that should never have happened" and called on the Law Commission and the Government to "urgently investigate" the rules and regulations applying to hunting deaths.
He also urged greater education for hunters.
Mears told the Waikato Times that he took no issue with the coroner's report and had always hoped his case would be a lesson to other hunters. He supported the coroner's recommendations but said he would "never touch a gun again".
The three other hunters, Kyle Dean, Ashley Wolland and Brad Bennet, did not want to comment but said they were happy the coroner had reiterated they did all they could to get Miss Ives help after she was shot.
They were also pleased it was shown alcohol was not a factor in the shooting.
Mears' lawyer, Roger Laybourn, was more critical of the coroner's recommendations, however, saying education was the key to reducing deaths, not harsher penalties.
"If you are going to react by dealing with the consequences, rather than dealing with the causes, you are on the wrong track."
He said charging the entire group with manslaughter would open up a can of worms and drastically alter the entire Crimes Act.
"Mears was charged because he failed in his responsibility to accurately identify his target and you can't spread that error to anybody else, because if he'd accurately identified his target, and shot a deer, there would have been no crime."
Mountain Safety's Mike Spray said there had been four hunting deaths since Mears was charged with manslaughter.
"He went to prison, everyone in the hunting community knew he went to prison, yet there were four more deaths.
"So is a more serious charge of manslaughter going to stop one deer hunter dying a year? I honestly don't think so."
He said the average number of people killed each year by hunters - about 1.5 - hadn't changed greatly since 1979 when the average was 1.2 deaths.
That was still too many but following basic safety rules would be a better preventive than increased penalties.
"You need to identify your target beyond all doubt.
"It's pretty easy to understand - it's not rocket science."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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