School's behaviour after death 'gutting' - father

5:49 pm on 15 June 2016

The father of a 15-year-old who died after being punched after rugby practice has strongly criticised his son's school at an inquest in Auckland.

Stephen Dudley, who had an undiagnosed heart condition, died in hospital three years ago - after being hit several times on 6 June 2013.

Stephen Dudley

Stephen Dudley Photo: SUPPLIED

Two brothers charged over the death were discharged without conviction a year later, and have permanent name suppression.

Brent Dudley told the inquest the way the school distanced itself from his family after his son's death was "gutting". The family felt abandoned by the school, he said.

After reading a statement about his son's love of school and sports, he turned and spoke to the school principal.

"We wanted communication with you and your board and you just distanced yourself and you did it bloody deliberately because you didn't want to incriminate yourselves."

The school, which could not be named, could have done more, he said.

"We lost our son while he was in your care and I think you guys could have put a bit more bloody effort into it. You didn't come up to standard, as far as we are concerned," he said.

The school had a culture of fighting, Mr Dudley had earlier told the inquest, and there were racial tensions between Samoan and Tongan students.

The school's lawyer, Jania Baigent, told the court the school had "zero tolerance of fighting" and the principal talked regularly at assembly about how fighting and bullying was not allowed.

Brent Dudley said he was still affected by Stephen's decision to take up rugby over basketball.

"It was me who persuaded him that there was of more a future in rugby. I have found that difficult to live with. After being a rugby supporter all my life, I can no longer bring myself to watch it," he told the court.

Boy tells inquest it was his first fight

Both of the brothers who were discharged without conviction over Stephen's death have spoken at the inquest.

One of the boys said today that fights were very common at the school, both in and out of school.

"Teachers had to often break them up but my brother and I had not been in any fights. That was not how we were brought up and our Dad would have been furious if he had found out," he said.

On 6 June 2013, he had finished his own training session and walked to pick up his brother, he told the court.

As he approached he saw his younger brother and Stephen pushing and shoving each other, he said.

He ran over and punched Stephen to protect his brother as he was worried he would be hurt, he said.

"My brother is not a fighter, he has never been in any fights and is a quiet, a gentle person," he said.

He only remembered punching Stephen once, then blanked out, he said.

It was the first time he had ever thrown a punch in anger and he deeply regretted his action.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs