R M Cullen
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the brothers have name suppression in New Zealand. However, they are well known on the internet.
Stephen Dudley was a 15 year old Maori boy urged into a fight after rugby training(June 2013) at his high school. His opponent's big brother (aged 17) jumped in and landed the first shot, a blind shot, the kill shot. The two Samoans left Stephen dying on the ground. The killers have both been discharged without conviction and granted permanent name suppression.
There is no real dispute about the facts. Stephen and the younger killer argued before rugby training. After training, Stephen was leaving but was called back as his team-mates were keen to see a fight. Some even recorded the events on their cell-phones.The older brother saw what was brewing, jumped in, killed Stephen (who did not throw a punch), and both brothers then left.
The senior policeman involved was Detective Inspector Bruce Scott, whose approach was "boys will be boys". Scott has history. He blocked prosecutions of the 'roastbusters' - a group of teenage males who got underage girls drunk and had sex with them- by belittling and disbelieving the complainants, or allowing his juniors to do this.
The school headmaster denied there was any problem with violence at his school. He was of the view that this ‘could have happened anywhere’. However, it has not happened anywhere else, and his school has a reputation for uncontrolled violence. In 2009 five members of its first fifteen received bans from rugby after they were involved in a brawl.
The brothers were Samoan. Stephen was Maori. If Stephen had been Samoan it is unlikely the elder brother would have killed him.
The elder brother, let's call him "M", is heading for a professional rugby career. In his last year at schoool, his height was 180cm and he weighed 102kg. In contrast, Stephen Dudley weighed 50 something kilos.
M was charged with manslaughter but this was reduced to assault with intent to injure, an offence carrying a maximum punishment of three years jail. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge. Stephen's autopsy revealed that he had an undiagnosed heart condition. The charge was reduced because of the reasonable possibility that he would have survived the assault had his heart been healthy.
Justice Winkelmann, our chief High Court judge accepted a submission from M's lawyer that he should be discharged without conviction. A key sentence in her judgment reads "If Stephen had not died because of his undiagnosed heart condition there would be nothing to distinguish this from numerous school yard fights." The implication is that the High Court is not the place to deal with school yard fights.
The judge goes on to make an incredible statement where she links high levels of testosterone to flawed decision making and reduced culpability.
Whatever the legal merits of Justice Winkelmann's decison, her judgment is flawed. She has decided that the immigration authorities in Australia, the UK, South Africa, and other rugby playing nations (for starters) are not competent to decide whether this young man should enter their country. They are not to know of M's violence.
Should M ever apply to become a teacher (his planned career for sentencing purposes, although Instagram has him wanting to be a model), the Teachers' Council, schools and parents are not to know that M has killed a child.
My interest in this case is as someone who has been involved for some years in elite athlete development. Her honour has made a dreadful mistake, and that's on top of ordering permanent name suppression. When M gets married and starts beating his wife (who might never have married him had she known of his violent history), where will Justice Winkelmann be?
M is just another of those guys - instant anger, hit someone really hard, say sorry afterwards. As time goes on he will get to like his reputation as someone who has killed. It will earn him respect in rugby teams, and will make his tendency to violence very hard to manage as he will be seen as the 'go to' man when someone needs sorting out. And should he ever get a taste for alcohol...
Granting name suppression and a discharge without conviction is a poor way to deal with impulsive violence leading to death in any circumstance. It is not a way to develop an elite athlete in a violent sport. What will be remembered is that M was discharged. That, there was no wrongdoing according to the judge. That, all M was guilty of was being a good brother. Justice Winkelmann got it so very wrong.
She has done M no favours. The problem is not M's violence. The problem is the name suppression. If he had owned up to his offending, the sporting community would have shared the burden with him. There are only two saints in rugby - Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter. Everyone else has made mistakes, and everyone believes in giving a bloke a fresh start. It's not M's fault he was discharged without conviction, and the name suppression of M was put in place primarily to protect the identity of his younger brother.
For many administrators, even the old school ones like me, M now fails the 'do I want him in my team' test. If he had not applied for name suppression then, yes, we would have believed that M was a young chap who was prepared to accept responsibility for what he had done, and who was prepared to confront the issues arising from that. Unfortunately, he is not that kind of guy. He wants to hide, at least from officials, what he has done.
The name suppression may, in the end, destroy M's chances of a professional rugby career. It is the biggest black mark against him. New Zealand being the country it is, we can be confident that someone will be letting any union or franchise that M signs with know of his past, that someone will tip off Australian, UK, or USA immigration should he be selected in a travelling team.