Man found not guilty of supplying alcohol to teen who died at West Coast party
A West Coast man has been found not guilty of supplying alcohol to teenager who later drank himself to death at a lakeside party.
Police alleged Adam Adcock, 19, supplied 17-year-old Mitchell Heward with a 12-pack box of Corona beers, filled the beer-bong the younger teen drank from, and handed him a bottle of vodka at a party at Lake Kaniere on February 13, 2016.
Heward, a twin, died after drinking heavily from a funnel while playing party games at the party near Hokitika. A 17-year-old girl who suffered "extreme intoxication" was treated at Grey Base Hospital.
On Tuesday, Judge Jane Farish found Adcock not guilty of supplying alcohol to a minor following a judge-alone trial at the Greymouth District Court.
She said police originally thought Adcock bought beer for Heward when a group of four left the party in the afternoon to stock up on more alcohol.
Brendan Perrin, 23, earlier pleaded guilty to buying beer for Heward and was discharged without conviction in May. Judge David Saunders said he was impressed by the compassionate speech Perrin delivered at South Westland Area School earlier this year.
On Monday, the court heard evidence from six people who attended the party. The witnesses, who were aged between 14 and 21 at the time of the party, talked about what was involved in their drinking games, how alcohol was brought to the party and their estimates of how drunk they were.
The judge said evidence from only one sober party-goer, Jayden Quaife, was reliable as the others had grossly underestimated their level of intoxication and their alcohol consumption had affected their memories of the tragic day.
Adcock denied pouring beer into the funnel for Heward and that he handed him a bottle of vodka while the group was sitting on couches.
Quaife said another teenager helped Heward drink from the funnel and Adcock was part of the group egging each other on.
"On the basis of the only reliable witness, I am not satisfied that it was Mr Adcock who poured alcohol into the funnel for Mr Heward," Judge Farish said.
Prosecutor Sergeant Wayne Johnston asked Quaife to refresh his memory by reading his statement from the day after the event.
Quaife agreed he said it was Adcock who passed Heward the bottle of vodka, and Heward "grabbed it, without looking".
Defence counsel Marcus Zintl questioned whether Quaife could be mistaken, to which he replied: "I can't remember a lot of stuff. I went through a lot that night."
Judge Farish said the passage of time since the party, almost 18 months, and the affects of the traumatic events that happened at the lake had a significant impact on the witnesses' accounts.
She concluded she was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Adcock gave Heward the opened bottle of vodka.
She condemned the whole group for their naivety when it came to binge-drinking.
"All were as equally morally culpable as each other," she said.
The judge also questioned whether young people received enough education about how consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time could affect people.