There were emotional scenes inside an Invercargill court house this afternoon as a deerstalker was discharged without conviction for accidentally shooting his son dead on a hunting trip.
The judge, the defendant, his family – even court staff – were all reduced to tears as details of the tragedy were outlined.
Stephen Long, 61, had 41 years of experience and often taught others about safe hunting practises.
But on a hunting trip to Stewart Island in March, he mistook his son Samuel, 24, for a white-tailed deer and fatally shot him in the head.
The court heard that Long spent about three minutes looking with his naked eye and through the scope of his rifle before firing a single shot at what he thought was a deer at a distance of 20m through reasonably dense bush.
In her summing up, the judge fought back tears as she described Long's situation as every father's worst nightmare.
She said that in her opinion, Long's level of carelessness had been low, and she discharged him without conviction.