Victim's father backs tougher gun laws

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 01/10/2012

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Tougher laws for hunters who accidently shoot people is a great move - but only if juries have the guts to convict, the father of a British tourist shot in the head says.

Last week coroner Wallace Bain made a raft of recommendations, including manslaughter as an automatic charge, to reduce the number of needless hunting deaths.

He called on the Law Commission and the Government to "urgently investigate" the rules and regulations applying to hunting deaths and suggested manslaughter as the go-to charge for a hunter who shot and killed a person.

The suggestions struck a chord with Briton Ian Purchase, whose son Matthew was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head while rabbit hunting near Putaruru in 2007.

The tourist survived, but has had a long road to recovery.

The Danish tourist accused of shooting him, Bjarne Jensen, 48, was later found not guilty by a jury of careless use of a firearm causing injury.

Mr Purchase welcomed the tougher laws Dr Bain wanted to implement, including making others in the hunting party just as culpable.

But he said tougher laws were no good unless juries were willing to convict.

"In my son's case the person accused of his injury was the only person standing behind him in the back of a vehicle and police ballistic and forensic tests matched the bullet removed from my son's head to the rifle he was using," he said.

"Nevertheless the court failed to find him guilty of careless use of a firearm. As a person who has hunted all my life it is hard to understand any situation where a person shouldn't be considered guilty of being careless if he has accidentally shot another person."

Mr Purchase said failure to identify a target properly, or failing to ensure you have a clear line of fire, should never be an excuse.

"Too many people are being killed or, in my son's case, suffering horrific injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Something must change."

The coroner made the suggestions after an inquest into the death of Lower Hutt school teacher Rosemary Ives, who was accidentally shot by Hamilton man who was illegally spotlighting with a group of friends.

Mr Bain described Miss Ives' death as a needless and violent "tragedy that should never have happened".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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