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Confusion in hunting trip nearly ends friendship in tragedy

Hunting trip turns deadly:

A group of friends from Gauteng gathered for their annual hunting trip. They were all experienced hunters who looked forward to this excursion every year. Among them were Morné, a skilled marksman, Christiaan, an avid outdoorsman, and Jacques, a seasoned hunter with a keen eye.

The group set out early in the morning, excited for a day filled with adventure and camaraderie. They headed deep into the dense bush, searching for game in their designated hunting zones. The air was crisp, and the anticipation hung heavy in the atmosphere.

As the day progressed, the group split up, each member venturing off in different directions. Morné chose to climb up a rocky hill, hoping to gain a better vantage point. Meanwhile, Christiaan decided to follow a trail that led to a clearing, while Jacques opted to explore a nearby stream.

Unbeknownst to the group, their paths were about to intersect in a tragic twist of fate. As Morné carefully made his way up the hill, he spotted movement in the distance. His heart raced with excitement as he aimed his rifle, ready to take a shot. However, in his eagerness, he failed to notice Christiaan, who had unknowingly walked into his line of sight.

At the same time, Jacques was taking careful steps along the stream, searching for signs of game. Suddenly, he heard a rustling sound and instinctively turned towards it, high up on the rocky hill. He could see movement in the bush. He swiftly raised his gun and fired a shot.

In an instant, chaos erupted. The sound of gunshots echoed through the forest, startling birds into flight and sending animals scattering in all directions. Morné, who had just taken aim at his actual target, felt an intense pain in his leg as the bullet pierced his flesh. His shot went off. Christiaan, startled by the noise and sensing danger, dove behind a fallen tree trunk, narrowly avoiding Morné’s bullet.

Realising what had just occurred, Jacques’s face went pale with shock and horror. He rushed to Morné’s side, his hands trembling. Christiaan, overcome with a mix of relief and concern, cautiously emerged from his hiding place to help.

With quick thinking and first aid knowledge, Christiaan did his best to stabilise Morné’s leg and stem the bleeding. The gravity of the situation weighed heavily on all of them. In that moment, the thrill of the hunt was replaced with a deep sense of remorse and regret.

They immediately called for help, and within minutes, a rescue team arrived to transport Morné to the nearest hospital. The group, now united by a shared tragedy, retreated from the forest, their hunting trip abruptly cut short. Overwhelmed by guilt and remorse, they promised one another to never forget the importance of safety and awareness while engaging in such activities.

Our legal expert, dr Llewlyn Curlewis weighs in:

What are the possible legal ramifications for each individual in this scenario?
In law, nothing will probably happen to Morne and Christiaan, since on the one hand, Morne was a victim of a terrible ordeal and Christiaan merely an eye-witness of the incident. Both of them would be potential witnesses who could be subpoenaed to testify if a criminal charge is opened and enforced by the State.

I doubt whether the friends will take the effort to even open a criminal case at the nearest police station. However, in such an event, the probability does exist that Jacques could be formally charged in a criminal trial. Nobody got killed, therefore neither the common law crimes of murder nor culpable homicide finds application.

The possibility of a lesser charge, for example, attempted murder or possibly assault, cannot be excluded. On the assumption that such a prosecution proceeds (not taking cognisance of many other possible interventions that could possibly be considered pre-trial), an acquittal will in any event follow since mere negligence in the form of guilt/ “mens rea” (so-called “culpa”) in insufficient to secure a conviction.

The required element to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the State is one of “intention” (“dolus”). It is self-explanatory that each matter will be determined on its own unique facts and to generalise is a reckless approach. Various other elements must also be proven. In addition to this, always remember that the possibility of a civil lawsuit could also follow and that incidents such as the one described above could also have an influence when you apply for the renewal of your firearm license, since that procedure is quasi-judicial in nature and not to be confused with other court proceedings.”

Never say never:
Hunting accidents are unfortunately a common occurrence in South Africa, with multiple cases reported every year. Unintentional discharge of a firearm as well as the hunter’s failure to identify their target, are two of the most common causes of hunting accidents.

One statistic showed that 90% of incidents happen to people within the same hunting party. This statistic is a stark reminder of the importance of hunting safety. It highlights the need for hunters to be aware of their surroundings and to take extra precautions when hunting with a group. It also serves as a warning to hunters to be mindful of their own safety and the safety of their hunting partners.

What if this happens to you?
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