Stephen Dudley assault triggered heart condition, coroner finds

The parents of a west Auckland schoolboy who died after a fight four years ago are calling for the criminal case into his death to be reopened, following the release of the coroner's report.

The coroner found 15-year-old Stephen Dudley as a result of an assault after school rugby training in June 2013, which triggered his unknown heart condition.

He was beaten by two brothers, both of whom faced charges as a result, but ended up without criminal convictions.

"I think the boys should be held accountable for what they've done to our son," Stephen's mother Mona Dudley told Newshub.

During the fight, the older of the two brothers landed a "clothesline" punch to Stephen's neck and together they beat him at least 10 times. Stephen didn't hit back once.

He collapsed, gasping for breath and frothing at the mouth.

Because the other boys didn't know what to do after Stephen's collapse, it took more than seven minutes for witnesses to start CPR, guided by emergency services over the phone, before an ambulance arrived and took over.

Stephen died in hospital later that day.

At the time, the older brother initially faced a manslaughter charge, which was withdrawn after medical evidence showed Stephen had an undiagnosed heart condition.

The charge was replaced with a charge of assault with intent to injure, which the older boy admitted. The younger brother had earlier admitted a charge of assault.

Both were discharged without conviction.

Prosecutors wanted to challenge the discharge for the older youth, who was 17 at the time of the assault, but the Crown decided against an appeal.

However in a ruling out on Thursday, coroner Gordon Matenga found the assault was a direct contributor to Stephen's death.

"I... find that the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to stress associated with a physical assault," he said in his report.

He noted Stephen's underlying condition of cardiac sarcoid.

It remains an open wound for Stephen's family and following the finding, the family's lawyer is writing to the Solicitor-General to ask the Crown to re-lay the manslaughter charges which never made it to trial.

"Our view is this matter is something that should have always gone to trial and be determined by a jury, not determined by Crown prosecutors and Defence Council as part of a plea bargain," lawyer Nikki Pender told Newshub.

In his report, the coroner has recommended the school Stephen had attended develop a programme for Year 9 students to learn how to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

He also recommended the Ministry of Education develop guidelines for all Kiwi schools around purchasing AEDs including training for staff and students.

Newshub.

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