The heartbroken parents of Auckland teenager Stephen Dudley,
who died when he was assaulted after rugby training, feel
powerless and upset by a justice system they say is
protecting the boys responsible for their grief.
Brent and Mona Dudley are unhappy that two teenage boys,
whose names are permanently suppressed, won't stand trial for
the manslaughter of their 15-year-old son.
Stephen died after a school rugby training session on June 6
last year. He was taken to Auckland Hospital after being
assaulted by the two teens and died a short time later.
Stephen, who was described by his dad as a "true gentleman",
never threw a punch at his attackers.
In the High Court at Auckland yesterday, one of them pleaded
guilty to a charge of assault with intent to injure.
He was to have faced trial for manslaughter but the Crown
said medical evidence concerning an undiagnosed heart
condition Stephen suffered from, meant there was no
reasonable chance of a conviction on that charge.
The teenager was bailed until his sentencing in August, and
Justice Mark Cooper ordered a pre-sentence report that looked
at home detention as a possible outcome.
The judge did not enter a conviction, meaning a discharge
without conviction is possible, as happened earlier this year
to the other, younger, teenage attacker. That boy pleaded
guilty to assault after the manslaughter charge he faced was
All this has left Mr and Mrs Dudley feeling bewildered and
struggling to accept that the attackers are not being charged
with Stephen's death.
They do not support name suppression, as it allowed the boys
-- one of whom plays top level sport -- to continue their
lives in anonymity and not be associated with their
"Their mother still gets to kiss them on the head and give
them a hug," Mrs Dudley told APNZ yesterday. "I will never
have that, not with my elder son."
The Dudleys' grief has been public knowledge, including a
December incident where Mr Dudley was shot in the chest by
his wife during an argument between the pair.
That was tough on them.
"We put on a big brave face and we go to work and do our
thing and we're still involved in the community," Mr Dudley
said. "But we're as heartbroken now as we've ever been."
Mr Dudley planned to attend the older teenager's sentencing,
look him in the eye and read a victim impact statement. In
earlier court appearances, he didn't believe the teen was
The Dudleys aren't even sure if the two teens know the
enormity of what they did and the lasting effect Stephen's
death has had on his family.
"Our son had so many positive and good things he offered the
world. He was just that special guy," Mr Dudley said.
"It's the viciousness of what they did. That's what we want
to emphasize," he said of the attack.
The Dudleys haven't meet the two teens and don't feel ready
to yet. Apart from the next sentencing, their focus is now on
unveiling Stephen's gravestone, donated by Sanctuary
The Dudleys are planning a public unveiling because "he was
everybody's big brother in this community".
- By Jimmy Ellingham of APNZ