Request for information concerning Police decision not to lay charge of manslaughter following death from careless discharge of firearm
On 7 April 2012 Christopher Dummer was hunting in the Aorangi Forest Park, South Wairarapa, when he fatally shot Alexander Cameron McDonald. Mr Dummer pleaded guilty to a charge of carelessly using a firearm causing death under section 53(1) of the Arms Act 1983. He was convicted of that charge on 24 August 2012 and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. The complainant requested from the Police information regarding the decision to charge Mr Dummer with careless use of a firearm causing death, rather than manslaughter. The Police withheld the information under section 9(2)(h) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) in order to “maintain legal professional privilege”.
I accept that the legal professional privilege ground applies, but consider that the overall public interest made it desirable for the Police to provide the complainant with a summary of the reasons for the decision to lay the lesser criminal charge. The complainant was entitled, as is the public, to a fuller explanation from the Police about why they decided to charge Mr Dummer with the lesser charge of carelessly using a firearm causing death. Disclosure of a summary of reasons for this decision serves to increase the transparency of the decision-making process and to promote the accountability of the Police for their decision. The Police have now provided the complainant with the summary of reasons.