Dead boy's parents angered by court decision

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 That boy pleaded guilty to assault after the manslaughter charge he faced was also withdrawn.

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 "thuggish" behaviour.

"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 remorseful.

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 Memorials.

The Dudleys are planning a public unveiling because "he was everybody's big brother in this community".

- By Jimmy Ellingham of APNZ

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