8 Oct 2010

Stupid decisions caused teen's death, says father

10:08 pm on 8 October 2010

The father of James Webster has told an inquest his son died because of ignorant and stupid decisions by others.

The three-day inquest has been told how the King's College student drank nearly five times the adult drink-driving limit before dying in a bed surrounded by vomit.

The 16-year-old boarder died on 9 May this year after drinking at a birthday party at the Returned Services Club in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn.

Police say the teenager died of acute alcohol poisoning. The inquest has heard evidence that James Webster told others he got drunk every other weekend, often to the point of becoming comatose.

Charles Webster was the last to speak on Friday and described how the evidence given before him about his son's apparent dealings with alcohol made him feel stupid and gutted.

An emotional Mr Webster said he and his wife Penny did not know about the party his son went to before he died and thought he had only ever drunk a few beers previously.

Mr Webster broke down in tears before saying he believed educating teenagers in schools about alcohol is vital and that would have saved his son's life.

"We've heard today that there's a whole lot of well-meaning people who made ignorant and stupid decisions. That's really, really sad and it cost our son's life."

Mr Webster said the couple never had a serious discussion with James about alcohol, saying they thought he was far too young to drink. He also does not believe his son would have had the chance to drink as often as the inquest was told.

Student's name remains suppressed

A fellow King's College student who obtained the alcohol for James Webster while under age used privilege in declining to tell the Coroner's Court this week how he got hold of two bottles of potent liquor.

The student was under-age at the time he obtained the alcohol. The 16-year-old did not attend the private party, but told the inquest he was approached by James Webster who wanted vodka and Jagermeister.

Charles Webster's lawyers strongly argued for name suppression on the student to be lifted. This was granted, but the suppression has been extended until next week while his family considers a review.

His lawyer, Peter Davey, read a statement from his family.

"He will have to live with the unforeseen outcome for the rest of his life, as will we and the Websters.

"He is sorry for his part, and has been extremely affected by his death and has learned a lot of factual information and life lessons from this. Most teenagers drink, most teenagers lie."

Coroner Gordon Matenga asked the student if he had learned anything. He replied that the incident brought to light that alcohol is more of a poison than it is made out to be, and the death was an unfortunate outcome.

The student says he never gave a statement, because he was not emotionally stable. However, police say the now 18-year-old refused to after receiving legal advice.