Dudley family want manslaughter charges

After a Coroner’s Inquiry found that the primary cause of Stephen Dudley’s death was the brutal and unprovoked assault on him, his family is calling for manslaughter

RNZ: Dudley family seek manslaughter charges

The family of a West Auckland teenager who died after being attacked on a rugby pitch will seek manslaughter charges against his schoolmates, based on a new coroner’s report.

A coroner’s report found Stephen had an underlying heart problem and died when the stress of the assault induced a heart attack.

The 15-year-old had just finished rugby training when a teammate picked a fight. The teammate’s older brother then joined in, laying one hard punch to Stephen’s throat and more to his body.

Stephen collapsed on the field and despite CPR attempts by emergency services, he died in hospital less than two hours later.

The two brothers were charged with manslaughter but the charges were downgraded to assault after there was not enough evidence to connect the assault to the heart attack.

The boys were then discharged without conviction and with permanent name suppression.

However, coroner Gordon Matenga has accepted crown pathologist Paul Morrow’s evidence that the assault was the most significant factor leading to the heart attack.

The Dudley family said the coroner’s findings were vindicating but bittersweet.

The family felt robbed by their son’s premature death and wanted justice, their spokesperson Ruth Money said.

“We believe the appropriate charge is manslaughter, certainly against the eldest brother, who was very large when you compare the size of him and Stephen.”

“It was a very violent, very physical assault… that’s been backed up by the coroner’s findings.”

The family’s lawyer, Nikki Pender, said they were writing to the solicitor-general to seek manslaughter charges against the two brothers.

“Stephen was happy and healthy one minute, the physical assualt happens, and he collapses.”

I had wondered if it was possible to have new charges as it has already been dealt with by the Court. You can’t be tried for the same offence twice if there was a legal outcome of the first trial. Apparently it is possible.

There was no risk of double jeopardy – where someone cannot be tried for the same offence more than once – because the brothers were previously charged with assault, not manslaughter, Ms Pender said.

But one of the attacker’s lawyers claims too much uncertainty.

But the lawyer for one of the brothers, Ron Mansfield, said there was too much uncertainty over what was the key factor in Stephen’s death and a new trial was unlikely.

“We’re dealing with a criminal standard when looking at the culpability of a crime – the coroner’s not.”

“He’s looking for the cause of death… They are quite distinct.”

Assessing criminal conduct had already been done by people at a very senior level, involving specialists, Mr Mansfield said.

“The outcome was just and fair.”

It was wrong to see the brothers as villains, he said.

Many people, myself included, disagree that the brothers were not villians. They may not have intended to kill Dudley, but they recklessly attacked him and any normal person would know that that sort of thuggery could lead to grave consequences.

12 Comments

  1. Bill Brown

     /  May 19, 2017

    An example must be set of these 2 thugs

    The Police failed, as did the Justice for the family

    There can be no excuse, and certainly not one where rugby is the reason

    • Brown

       /  May 19, 2017

      Yep, when you assault someone and they die, irrespective of unintended consequences, there can be no room for a discharge without conviction. It may be at a lower end of thuggishness or something but its got to be punishable.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 19, 2017

        So if you shoved someone out of your way, and they fell in such a way that they broke their neck, you would think it all right if you were charged with and convicted of killing them, and plead guilty ?

        • Brown

           /  May 20, 2017

          The plea would depend on the charge and the punishment would fit the crime. This case centers on an assault so there is more culpability than the speculative scenario you raise where a death could be ruled as accidental.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 20, 2017

            Shoving someone sounds like an assault to me-or is it that if it was you, it would be an accident ?

    • Sally

       /  May 19, 2017

      They’ll never be custodial sentences for kids that age.
      Plus regardless of their race they play rugby. No judge ever jails a kid with a “promising career” in rugby.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 19, 2017

        Name five who have been let off serious charges because of this.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  May 19, 2017

          Being a member of a rugby team, even a school one, is not a ‘Get out of jail free’ card, or anyone who wanted a life of crime would join one.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 19, 2017

            The PDT seems to think that it should be-sorry, PDT, playing rugby does not guarantee that criminals will not be punished for crimes.

  2. Chuck Bird

     /  May 19, 2017

    If it had of been a fight or even common assault then I could see a manslaughter charge not being laid. The older brother plead guilty to assault with intent to injure. Therefore the older brother should have been charged with manslaughter. The fact that both brothers got no penalty at all a permanent name suppression is an outrage.

  3. duds

     /  May 19, 2017

    Good on LF, you called it correct from the start! Now i see the Police have stated they ‘may’ review the case again but claim their original investigation was thorough. What a joke!

  4. lurcher1948

     /  May 19, 2017

    NZ the way you want it under national