Several angry friends and relatives of young Southland hunter
Adam Hill began to walk out of the Invercargill District
Court yesterday when it became apparent the man who mistook
him for a deer and fatally shot him would not be sent to
They made comments such as ''joke'', ''disgrace'',
''rubbish'' and ''I'll see you round, bro'' as they left, and
shouting could be heard coming from the corridor outside the
Artist and well-known gun-safety advocate Wayne Edgerton
(56), of Tuatapere, was being sentenced after pleading guilty
last month to a charge of carelessly using a firearm and
causing Mr Hill's death.
Many of those in the courtroom wore fluoro vests as a show of
support for the father, who was wearing an orange vest when
he was shot once in the chest by Edgerton in the Longwoods,
Western Southland, on April 13. Mr Hill (25) died instantly
of massive internal injuries.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years'
imprisonment and, in emotionally laden victim impact
statements, eight members of Mr Hill's family had made it
clear they thought nothing short of prison was an appropriate
Judge Michael Turner was nearing the end of his decision when
he said, while he was aware of the family's views, he
considered home detention was the appropriate punishment for
Edgerton's ''error of judgement and stupidity''.
He paused briefly while about a dozen people left the
courtroom before sentencing Edgerton to seven months' home
detention, ordering him to complete 400 hours of community
work and ordering the forfeiture of his gun.
He also ordered Edgerton to pay $10,000 in emotional harm
reparation to Mr Hill's partner, Christine Pink.
At that, Ms Pink, who had been distraught throughout most of
the two and a-half hour sentencing, ran from the courtroom
She was followed from the room by a young woman who pointed
at Edgerton's wife and shouted obscenities as she left.
Edgerton, visibly upset during the sentencing, was taken from
the dock downstairs to the holding cell area below the
Asked for comment after the hearing, Mr Hill's father, David,
said a home detention sentence counted for nothing.
''He goes home to cuddle his wife tonight, but Adam is never
going home to cuddle Christine again. It's very upsetting.''
However, he said there was nothing he could do but accept the
''For me, I'm closing the book and laying Adam to rest ...''
Mr Hill's mother, Barbara Herrick, who lives in Australia,
said in her victim impact statement the law had recently been
changed in Australia so people who abused or killed animals
would automatically receive prison sentences and she could
not understand why people in New Zealand who killed others
would not go to prison, too.
Outside the courthouse, she said the sentence was
''You can't kill someone and get seven months' home
detention. It's wrong. ''Adam's life was worth more than
She said family members would be lobbying for the law to be
changed so those who shot others should be charged with
manslaughter and should face a jail term.
She was with a group of about 30 Hill family supporters
standing outside the courtroom, obviously upset over the
Two police officers watched, and their presence inflamed
some, who made it clear they did not want or need the police.
One member of the group said they were waiting for Edgerton
to leave the court so they could ''abuse the crap'' out of
After about half an hour, when Edgerton had not emerged, the
Mr Hill (25) was hunting with his father and his cousin Steve
Sycamore the day he died.
In his victim impact statement, David Hill said he was not
with his son when he died and he received the devastating
news from Mr Sycamore a short time afterwards.
He handed Judge Turner a framed photograph of his son taken
In it a smiling Adam stands in full hunting gear, including
his high-vis vest, and is about to leave a clearing and enter
''It was taken a few hours before his death. It is
gut-wrenching to think he was walking to his death,'' David
David Hill said said he was ''dumbfounded'' how Edgerton, who
was about 41m away from his son and had a clear line of
sight, could have mistaken ''two boys in bright orange'' for
Ms Pink's statement, read by Helen Herrick, said Ms Pink's
''whole world had been ripped out from beneath her''.
Edgerton had ruined Ms Pink's life and those of their
Their goals of getting married, buying their own home and one
day buying a farm had been shattered because of Edgerton's
Mother and children had also had to leave their home on the
farm and return to town.
Barbara Herrick said her son was an ''amazing man'' and her
heart had been ripped out because her baby boy was gone
''He should have been there for [family] milestones like
birthdays and Christmases and holidays ... and now those
occasions will always be tainted with grief.''
In her statement, read by her daughter-in-law, Steve
Sycamore's mother Kathy said her son had been traumatised by
the death of the cousin who was also one of his best friends.
He was in pain and having nightmares, she said.
''When Adam died, part of him died, too.''
Mr Hill's grandfather Don Hill said the effect of losing a
grandson ''at the pinnacle of his life'' had been profound.
Several of those who spoke said Edgerton was not wearing his
spectacles the day Mr Hill died and was not able to see his
However, Judge Turner said an optometrist's report showed
Edgerton required glasses only for reading, not for driving
or distance vision.
Edgerton's carelessness was at the highest level, and it
seemed his desire to shoot a deer overwhelmed safety
procedures, he said.
He said April 13 was a fine day, Edgerton was an experienced
hunter familiar with the Longwoods, he was close to his
target and Mr Hill was wearing an orange vest.
For those reasons he found it ''inexplicable'' that Edgerton
mistook Mr Hill for a deer.
However, he said Edgerton was a first offender - apart from
minor traffic offences in the 1970s - and until now had ''led
a blameless life''.
He had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, was genuinely
remorseful about what he had done and had offered to take
part in restorative justice, which the Hill family was not
willing to consider at this time.
''Yours was a momentary lapse of care which had tragic
consequences for the victim and his family, and for you and
''You broke the golden rule of hunting and the consequences
could not have been more devastating,'' Judge Turner said.
Earlier in the hearing, Edgerton's counsel Richard Smith said
his client wanted to make a reparation payment to Mr Hill's
family but there had not been an opportunity to discuss that
Judge Turner called a 10-minute recess so the offer could be
When court resumed, Judge Turner said the family was not
willing to accept the $10,000 offered but would leave it to
him to decide whether a payment was appropriate.