Wife sentenced to home detention for husband's fatal fall
The family of a man who died after his violent, alcoholic wife pushed him, causing him to fall off a porch, leading to his death, says her sentence of home detention will do nothing to bring him back.
The 2011 death of 48-year-old Bruce Mouat was originally ruled an accident but last year, Susan Elizabeth Mouat was charged with manslaughter.
She initially pleaded not guilty but unexpectedly changed her plea to guilty on the day her trial was due to start in September.
In the High Court at New Plymouth on Friday, Justice Peter Churchman sentenced her to 11 months home detention to be served at a house in Napier.
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He also imposed three post release conditions to help her deal with her alcohol addiction.
Her sentence also took into account her 17 previous convictions - the majority of which were for violence and threats towards Bruce.
Outside court, family spokesman and Bruce's brother-in-law Simon Harrison said the sentence wasn't what they were hoping for.
"Clearly we knew that the sentence wasn't going to bring Bruce back after six long years."
"But I think it's fair to say the family are a bit disappointed with the sentence but we recognise there are parameters within which the justice was able to sentence the offender with."
He said the family members each had their own views on the decision to sentence Susan to home detention.
"This sentence now gives us some sort of closure but obviously we have to live with Bruce's death forever and especially for his siblings and the kids, he'll never be forgotten," he said.
"He'll never be forgotten by anyone, members of the community and as the crown touched on, he was a big part of the community down in South Taranaki and his work, it goes a wee way but there'll never be closure."
He said they also respected the initial police inquiry that found there was no foul play in Bruce's death.
"I think on the day when the offender plead guilty we said the family doesn't have any issue with what happened at the coroner's hearing and as you heard in there today, it was only in October of last year when she allegedly got this off her chest that the police were able to move forward with the prosecution," he said.
"So there's no ill feeling towards the coroner or anyone like that"
Bruce's mother had been seriously impacted by her son's death, he said, and her health had deteriorated.
"You probably noted she wasn't here today, she's just unable to be here," he said.
"The kids are suffering, his older son misses him terribly and that's a huge loss him, the siblings are struggling with it as well and as you heard the justice refer to, Neil, his brother, called him his best mate and he misses him terribly.
"Then there's the members of the community and those that he worked with, the alpine club which he was heavily involved with and he contributed a lot to that. I think fair to say in a small community like Hawrea, where he's been pretty much all his life, and within his family, he's going to be hugely missed."
Churchman set a starting point of 22 months in jail for the offending, before adding two months for her 18 previous convictions.
That included 17 between 1988 and 2011.
He had also taken out a protection order against Susan five years before they were married.
The 18th conviction, which came after his death, was for drunk driving.
Churchman considered mitigating factors such as her guilty plea, admission to police and remorse and reduced her sentence to 17.34 months in jail which he then converted to 11 months home detention.
Bruce Mouat had been drinking at an event in Hawera on July 15, 2011, before two women dropped him off home at around 1am the next morning.
He was so drunk he had to be helped up the stairs and Susan Mouat went to let him in the door.
She initially said he had wanted to go out again so she left him and went to bed but but later admitted they argued and she had pushed him which caused him to fall down the stairs and hit his head on the concrete paver.
He was taken to Hawera Hospital, then transferred to Taranaki Base Hospital before being flown to Wellington Hospital where he had emergency surgery for his head injury.
Mouat never regained consciousness and died 11 days later.