A Southland man who shot a teenager dead in a hunting accident 22 years ago has lost his bid to get his firearms licence back.
Brendon Diack took police to court in Invercargill on Friday, appealing a 2015 decision to refuse him a firearms licence.
In 1996, Diack admitted to a charge of careless use of a firearm causing 16-year-old Mark Whyte’s death at Tuatapere and was sentenced to two months’ jail and fined $3000.
He also lost his firearms licence at that time.
During Friday’s hearing, Diack said he had applied for his firearms licence “five or six times” since 1996, but to no avail.
A hunter for years before the tragedy, he now wanted to go hunting with his sons and pass on his knowledge, he said.
Judge Mark Callaghan refused Diack’s bid to get his licence back, pointing to the 1996 tragedy and two incidents in 2013 and 2014 to show Diack was not a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence.
In 2013 Diack, who had a $300,000 a year contracting business, hit a man on the chin who owed him $300; and in 2014 he dug up gravel he had laid for another client because he was owed $500, the judge said.
His actions, 17 years after the fatal shooting, were irrational and violent and showed he had not learned how to control his aggression, the judge said.
Diack was “possibly a risk to others if he had access to firearms”.
“His actions in 2013 and 2014 indicates he can’t control himself properly and in my view he isn’t a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence.”
Earlier in the hearing, Diack said there had been a lot of angst in the community since the 1996 tragedy but he believed a lot of people had moved on except for Mark Whyte’s family.
“Jimmy and Shirley [Mark’s parents] are going to hate me for the rest of my days for what I done to their son, I am sorry about that.”
No-one went hunting with the intention of shooting a person, he said.
When people asked him about the incident he always sat down and talked about it and “believe it or not it still brings a tear to my eye … because it’s tragic.”
Apart from wanting to go hunting with his sons, he also wanted his licence back because it gave him the opportunity to speak with different hunters who were on the same page and he wanted to do trap shooting again, he said.
After the accident he had still gone out with hunters “videoing”, but it wasn’t the same, he said.
His lawyer, John Fraser said Diack was an honest and hard working man who in 1996 made a fatal error with a rifle.
Since that time, Diack had managed a business and had a stable home life, Fraser said.
Diack is the Tuatapere fire station chief which Fraser suggested would not be the case without the support of a large number of firefighters and a significant vetting process.
Fraser said the 2013 and 2014 incidents were minor and out of character for Diack and they did not demonstrate a pattern of behaviour.
However, police lawyer Sarah McKenzie said the offences in 2013 and 2014 tainted Diack’s character when coupled with the the 1996 fatal shooting.
Southland police area commander inspector Joel Lamb said he had spoken to police officers in Tuatapere and they had expressed concern about the feelings in the community if Diack were to be granted a firearms licence.
Lamb said the major reason police had refused Diack’s application for a firearms application was due to the 1996 shooting.
He didn’t accept the incidents in 2013 and 2014 were minor.
“Incidents involving violence aren’t minor.”
A long-time mate of Diack’s, John Munro, said he did not get the feeling the Tuatapere community was divided over the 1996 shooting.
Diack was a respected member of the community and it was not in his nature to be aggressive, Munro said.