Inexperience and errors in judgement caused the death of 12-year-old Jack Martin after a boating accident on the Blue Lake at St Bathans just over a year ago, the Alexandra District Court has heard.
Sam Robert Pringle, of Gimmerburn, appeared before Judge Michael Turner on a charge of operating a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger to Jack Thomas Laurie Martin on December 26, 2015.
The charge was laid under the Maritime Act and had a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Pringle initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty in the Alexandra District Court today.
Mr Belcher said Pringle did not want Jack's family to relive the "traumatic experience'"of Jack's loss through a court case, and Pringle had lived with the consequences of his actions "every day since Boxing Day a year ago".
Pringle was then convicted and fined $1500 and court costs of $130.
Judge Turner thanked the families of Jack and Pringle, who were both in court.
Following the case, Jack's father, Neil Martin, told media his family did not consider Pringle guilty and they disputed some of the facts presented in court. The summary of facts said Pringle had been driving the boat in the middle of a section of the lake, when he was in fact on the right, Mr Martin said.
"My wife was on the boat so she knows. Sam has done nothing wrong, he's been backed into a corner."
Judge Turner said Jack had been on a floatable "biscuit" being towed by Pringle on the lake. Judge Turner said when Pringle approached the narrowest part of the lake he was in the middle of the lake rather than at the right of it, as required by maritime law.
A boat approached from the opposite direction, travelling on the far right of the lake from its direction, and Pringle swerved to avoid the boat. This caused the biscuit to swing left into the path of the oncoming boat, and the boat and Jack collided. He sustained unsurvivable injuries and died at the scene.
Mr Belcher said Jack's family were in court and held "no animosity" towards Pringle. They saw the incident as a "tragic accident" for which no one should be held responsible, and they had not wanted Pringle to be charged.
Jack's family said Pringle was a "fine young man" who had acted with honour and integrity and showed huge strength and courage, Mr Belcher said.
Sergeant Ian Collin said police had decided to prosecute because they considered Pringle's inexperience with boats and specifically on the Blue Lake had caused errors in judgement and constituted a breach of the Maritime Act, causing danger.
Judge Turner said a combination of events resulted in "significant and disastrous consequences". There had been no criminality to Pringle's offending, and his driving faults were at the lower end of the scale, "but the outcome was tragic. A life was lost". Judge Turner said Pringle's lack of previous convictions, good character and "exceptional remorse" were mitigating factors when considering sentencing.
After the court case the Martins said they were also still angry they had only learnt of the date of the court hearing for Pringle's case through media reports, and they had formally complained to police and the Ministry of Justice about that.
Sgt Collin said he did not want to comment about the family's comments.