As 17-year-old Tawhirimatea Tahere lay dying in his parents' arms on a Kaikohe street, his finals words were to ask them to forgive and look after the man who had shot him – his cousin and friend, 22-year-old Aige Adlam-Kiro.
In the High Court at Whangārei on Tuesday Adlam-Kiro was sentenced to 10 months' home detention for the manslaughter of Tahere, known as Tawhs, and for unlawful possession of a firearm, a sawn-off double-barrel shotgun that had been converted into a pistol grip.
Police were called to the corner of Heke and Hongi streets on the night of February 24 this year, after reports of a gunshot. Tahere died on the way to hospital.
At the start of the sentencing Tahere's mother Aroha Tahere read her emotional victim impact statement. She said Tawhs had been her only son among her four children, who was known as their 'marital blessing,' as he was born nine months to the day after their wedding.
She said her heart stopped and her whole world crumbled when he died.
She heard the noise of the gun and went outside to find him in his father's arms on the ground. He was in pain but conscious. She grabbed his hand and tried to comfort him, telling him it would be "alright."
"I didn't think for a moment he would pass away," she said.
"He said, 'It's okay, I'm okay. I love you Mum, I love you Dad. Look after Aige, forgive Aige'."
She said it would be disrespectful if his family did not honour his last wishes.
The two families had taken part in a restorative justice hearing, where Adlam-Kiro had apologised and committed to do all he could to make things right.
Aroha said it was her whānau's wish that Adlam-Kiro did not go to prison, as it would not allow him and his whānau, or them, to heal if he was behind bars.
"Tawhs passed away with no hate or anger, but with a strong testament of his faith... to always put family first, that's my biggest lesson," she said.
At the restorative justice meeting, Adlam-Kiro committed to undertake the counselling he needed, and to take responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of his cousin's grave.
Justice Gerard van Bohemen said the summary of facts showed that the two men were playing with the firearm in Adlam-Kiro's car, outside the Tahere home. Adlam-Kiro had said said the gun discharged accidentally as he was playing with it. He had not known it was loaded.
"You have heard the impact on Tawhs' family, you have heard how his mother's heart stopped and how she crumbled," Justice van Bohemen said, adding that Adlam-Kiro had to live knowing that he had killed his cousin and friend, and the impact it had on their whānau.
It was clear that Adlam-Kiro had shown genuine remorse for the actions that led to his cousin's death, however, and he accepted that he had not known the weapon was loaded.
"This was a real tragedy," he said, adding that the wishes of a family in regards to a sentencing did not drive the judge's decision, but they could provide some guidance.
Aroha's victim impact statement was one of the most compassionate and forgiving he had ever heard, and it was clear that imprisonment would impact on the whānau healing.
He gave a starting point for sentencing of four years' jail. He then gave a reduction totalling 55 per cent for a number of factors, including Adlam-Kiro's youth, his genuine remorse, very early guilty plea and lack of any previous convictions.
That left an end sentence of one year and 18 months' jail, which then opened the possibility of home detention. He sentenced Adlam-Kiro to 10 months' home detention on both charges, to be served concurrently. Imprisonment would not be appropriate in this case.
Justice Bohemen also had a message for Adlam-Kiro, to make sure he upheld commitments he made during the restorative justice meeting and to go on and live a productive life.