No conviction for boy over rugby training death

Last updated 11:18 21/03/2014
Fairfax NZ

Brent Dudley says "there's no winners here today, just one very, very sad family," after the court decided a 16-year-old would escape conviction for the assault on his son Stephen Dudley, who died afterwards.

Stephen Dudley
STEPHEN DUDLEY: Died after being punched at rugby training.

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"With actions should come consequences and that didn't happen today," says father of boy who died after being assaulted after rugby practice.

The comments followed the discharge without conviction today of a 16-year-old who assaulted Auckland schoolboy Stephen Dudley moments before he died last year.

"There's no winners here today, just one very, very sad family," Brent Dudley said outside the court.

The 16-year-old and an 18-year-old were originally charged with the manslaughter of the 15-year-old student, who died following a violent incident after a rugby training session in June.

The 16-year-old defendant pleaded guilty last month to an amended charge of assault but his co-accused has denied the charge and his trial will take place in June.

In the High Court in Auckland today Justice Helen Winkelmann told the 16-year-old he had already been held to account for what he had done.

Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins said 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".

However, he said the attack on Stephen was "not a minor assault" and involved several punches to the torso.

The 16-year-old's conduct after the incident also reflected poorly on him, Perkins said, when he walked away, leaving the victim on the ground.

Brent Dudley read a victim-impact statement to the court on behalf of himself and his wife Mona where he discussed the toll their son's death had taken on him and his four children.

Though the offender was only charged with assault, he said that could not be taken in isolation.

"It's clear in our minds your actions and the assault had a significant influence on the subsequent events in which Stephen didn't return to his family that night," he said.

The family found it particularly difficult that Stephen had chosen to walk away but had been called back to the middle of the pitch before the fight started.

He was allegedly punched in the neck by the older boy, then took a flurry of punches to the torso.

Stephen did not throw a punch.

Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield said his client felt a deep sadness over Stephen's death, as did the boy's family.

"They're a humble family, who live by a strong moral code," he said.

In a letter to the court the teenager said he wished he could have been "a bigger guy", shaken the victim's hand and walked away.

He said he owed it to the dead boy to now make something of himself.

"I don't want to waste the privilege of life," he wrote.

Mansfield said the fight arose out of "immaturity and peer pressure" and argued for a discharge without conviction for the 16-year-old, who had not been able to return to any school since the incident.

Justice Winkelmann granted the application and said the options for sentence were reduced because of the offender's age.

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"I consider you've already been held to account for your actions," she said.

Justice Winkelmann said the 16-year-old's exclusion from education was a key issue and that he should reintegrated as soon as possible.

Both teens have had name suppression since charges were laid, and today the judge made that suppression order permanent.

- Stuff

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