Dudley accused admits assault charge

Last updated 11:34 13/06/2014
Stephen Dudley
STEPHEN DUDLEY: Died after being punched at rugby training.

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A teen who was supposed to go on trial next week for the manslaughter of schoolboy Stephen Dudley has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

The 19-year-old, who has permanent name suppression, appeared in the High Court in Auckland today where the Crown amended the charge to one of assault with intent to injure.

He and a 16-year-old were originally charged with the manslaughter of the 15-year-old Stephen, who died following a violent incident after a rugby training session on June 6 last year.

The court has previously heard that an altercation arose between Stephen and the younger offender before the 19-year-old entered the scene throwing punches.

It was understood Stephen took a blow to the neck before sustaining several more to the torso.

The attackers then walked away, leaving him on the ground.

An autopsy revealed Stephen had a pre-existing, undiagnosed heart condition called cardiac sarcoidosis, which meant the Crown could not prove the 16-year-old's actions had caused his death "in a way the law requires".

The 16-year-old defendant pleaded guilty in February to an amended charge of assault and was discharged without conviction a month later.

However, the charge remained against the 19-year-old and the manslaughter trial was due to start on Monday.

The Crown's decision to alter the charge came after overseas cardiology experts and a panel of scientists specialising in cardiac arrhythmia were consulted.

"The applicant has formed the view that it no longer has a reasonable prospect of establishing beyond reasonable doubt the alleged assault by the respondent was a substantial and operative cause of the death of the deceased," the Crown said today.

Defence lawyer John Munro asked Justice Mark Cooper not to enter a conviction against his client.

The judge ordered a pre-sentence report which would canvas the availability of home detention.

The teen was remanded on bail until August when he will be sentenced.

The Dudley family were not at court this morning.

Since Stephen's death they have faced more pain after his mother Mona accidentally shot her husband Brent with an air gun in December.

Mona Dudley was discharged without conviction five months later.

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