Tears of relief and smiles broke out from family and friends in court as a Rotorua businessman avoided prison for accidentally shooting dead his mate in a hunting accident.
A large group of supporters gathered in the public gallery in Rotorua District Court today to hear Judge Phillip Cooper sentence Henry Robert Worsp to six months home detention and 250 hours community work.
Worsp had mistakenly identified his mate James Dodds as a fallow deer during a hunting trip in the Paeroa Ranges, south of Rotorua, last September as he fired his .270 rifle from 34 metres.
Dodds, who was wearing camo trousers, a black top and a brown backpack and crouching down, was killed instantly.
Police said Worsp had most likely believed Dodds to be a fallow deer.
A fern hanging down across Worsp's line of sight was mistakenly believed by him to be deer antlers.
The pair had split up 30 minutes beforehand to go hunting on either side of a steep gully.
In sentencing Judge Phillip Cooper said two crucial issues in Dodds' death had been that Worsp did not see enough of the target to properly identify it as a deer, and he was not exactly sure where his friend was at the time he took aim.
"It is clearly a case where the target was not identified," Judge Cooper said.
Judge Cooper said Worsp, a outdoor safety manager had considerable managerial experience.
"It was a tragic mistake by someone who always displayed with a high degree of professionalism," he said.
Judge Cooper highlighted the large number of testimonials given to the court by friends and outdoor safety and hunting colleagues supporting Worsp.
Many of the character references described Worsp, who is married with two young children, as having high personal values, dedication and resourcefulness, and leadership skills, he said.
Dodds' partner, Gabrielle Molloy, had also fully supported Worsp.
Judge Cooper drew a distinction between the present case and previous hunting fatalities which he said had been the result of stupidity, or inadequate effort to identify the target.
Worsp had taken time to properly identify the target, twice sighting it through his scope, and believed what he had seen was in fact a deer.
Lawyer Paul Mabey QC also drew the distinction between other hunting fatalities and his client's.
He said the most appropriate sentence was home detention.
Worsp was remorseful and apologetic and had complete understanding from the victim's partner, Mr Mabey said.
The death of his friend will live with him for the rest of his life, he said.
Worsp and his wife had given much of their time to help Ms Molloy overcome the burden of her partners death, Mr Mabey said.
Outside court Worsp's father, Peter Worsp, said the death of Mr Dodds had been "the most terrible tragedy for everyone involved."
"Henry is extremely remorseful, and feeling deeply for members of the other family and what they have gone through.
"I'm afraid his sentence will go on for years."
- The Dominion Post