Several angry friends and relatives of young Southland hunter Adam Hill began to walk out of the Invercargill District Court yesterday when it became apparent the man who mistook him for a deer and fatally shot him would not be sent to prison.
They made comments such as "joke", "disgrace", "rubbish" and "I'll see you round bro" as they left, and shouting could be heard coming from the corridor outside the packed courtroom.
Artist and well-known gun-safety advocate Wayne Edgerton, 56, of Tuatapere, was being sentenced after pleading guilty last month to a charge of carelessly using a firearm and causing Mr Hill's death.
Many of those in the courtroom wore fluoro vests as a show of support for the father, who was wearing an orange vest when he was shot once in the chest by Edgerton in the Longwoods, Western Southland, on April 13.
Mr Hill, 25, died instantly of massive internal injuries.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years inprisonment, and in emotionally-charged victim impact statements, eight members of Mr Hill's family had made it clear they thought nothing short of prison was an appropriate punishment.
Judge Michael Turner was nearing the end of his decision when he said, while he was aware of the family's views, he considered home detention was the appropriate punishment for Edgerton's "error of judgement and stupidity".
He paused briefly while about a dozen people left the courtroom before sentencing Edgerton to seven months' home detention, ordering him to complete 400 hours of community work and ordering the forfeiture of his gun.
He also ordered Edgerton to pay $10,000 in emotional harm reparation to Mr Hill's partner, Christine Pink.
At that, Ms Pink, who had been distraught throughout most of the two and a half hour sentencing, ran from the courtroom crying.
Edgerton, visibly upset during the sentencing, was taken from the dock downstairs to the holding cell area below the courtroom.
Asked for comment after the hearing, Mr Hill's father David said a home detention sentence counted for nothing.
"He goes home to cuddle his wife tonight, but Adam is never going home to cuddle Christine again. It's very upsetting."
However, he said there was nothing he could do but accept the sentence.
"For me, I'm closing the book and laying Adam to rest ..."
Mr Hill's mother, Barbara Herrick, said outside court the sentence was "ridiculous".
"You can't kill someone and get seven months' home detention. It's wrong.
"Adam's life was worth more than seven months."
She said family members would be lobbying for the law to be changed so that those who shot others should be charged with manslaughter and should face a jail term.
She was with a group of about 30 Hill family supporters standing outside the courtroom, obviously upset with the sentence.