18 Aug 2015

Report disappoints dead hunter's mother

4:19 pm on 18 August 2015

The mother of a hunter shot dead by another hunter is disappointed that the Coroners Court has not recommended the law changes she and her husband have been fighting for.

However, Associate Conservation Minister Peter Dunne has told the Coroners Court that he is commissioning a review into recreational hunter safety and the issue of illegal hunting.

The Coroners Court today released its report into the death of Alexander Cameron McDonald, 29, who was killed while hunting in the Aorangi Forest Park in the South Wairarapa on 7 April 2012.

Christopher Dummer was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison for one charge of careless use of a firearm causing death and ordered to pay $7000 in reparations.

Dummer shot Mr McDonald from about 15 metres away, believing him to be a deer.

The Coroner's report into the incident has labelled the death "eminently avoidable" and said Dummer had broken the Arms Code by failing to identify his target beyond all doubt.

Mr McDonald's parents believe that Dummer's firearms licence should have been revoked after he was arrested and charged with dangerous driving, assault with a weapon and intentional damage in 2011.

Police have conceded that they should have considered whether to revoke his firearms licence after the 2011 incident, which they failed to do.

Mr McDonald's mother urged the Coroner to recommend law changes that would see a hunter's firearms licence revoked for life if they shot and killed another hunter.

She also wanted a mandatory term of imprisonment even if gross negligence could not be established to support a manslaughter charge.

Coroner Garry Evans said the Coroners Court was "not persuaded" to make recommendations to the Government about legislative changes despite "careful consideration" of Ms McDonald's view.

He said Associate Conservation Minister Peter Dunne wrote to him in July saying he had commissioned a review into recreational hunter safety and the issue of illegal hunting.

The report said the terms of reference of the review were not yet available.

The Coroner said his findings into Mr McDonald's death should be sent to the minister.

He said Ms McDonald's view that all hunters who shoot and kill a fellow hunter should have their licences revoked for life was "draconian" but said he understood her reasons for wanting the law to be tightened.

The coroner said he received a letter from Ms McDonald which expressed disappointment that law changes had not been made the subject of coronial recommendation.

Other findings into Mr McDonald's death

  • Dummer thought he saw the red shoulder blade area of a deer and even described seeing the texture of the animal's fur.
  • Dummer is short sighted but said his eyesight is fine with glasses.
  • Coroner said Dummer did not appear to have been tested for colour blindness.
  • Dummer could not see what he thought was the deer's head and shot into and above foliage aiming at what he believed was the shoulder blades of the animal.
  • Dummer wrote to Mr McDonald's parents expressing remorse and said he had disposed of his guns and had no intention to hunt again. However, he applied for a new licence in June 2014.