Friends and family of a man who died during a brawl have broken down in tears after a judge ruled his alleged killer could have been acting in self defence.
Reece Watherston, 21, had pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Jack Hanley, 22, who died after being struck with a single punch to the head during a brawl in Adelaide in 2017.
Justice Anne Bampton on Monday acquitted Mr Watherston of the charge in the South Australian Supreme Court.
Mr Hanley’s mother Julie Kelbin delivered an emotional and heart breaking statement after the verdict was announced, asking in between tears ‘Where is the justice?’ while his friends showed their sorrow outside court.
Ms Kelbin broke down as she read the statement outside the courtroom, describing how much the loss of her son had impacted her and her family’s life.
‘While I visit a cemetery to sit at my son Jack’s grave, Watherston gets to live his life freely. Where is the justice for my son Jack?’ she said in between sobs.
‘I’ve lived 568 days of hell without my youngest son Jack.’
Ms Kelbin defended her son, saying he was gentle and kind and demanded the government take better control over similar incidents.
‘How many more deaths on our streets is it going to take for our legal system to start to take this seriously,’ she said.
‘Jack, who had never had a violent fight in his life. Jack was a gentle soul. This coward took my Jack’s life,’ she said.
During the judge-alone trial, prosecutors said Mr Hanley died at the scene from catastrophic head injuries caused when he fell backward and fractured his skull on the pavement.
‘The accused hit him as hard as he possibly could,’ prosecutor Mark Norman SC said.
‘The prosecution alleges the punch was an unlawful and dangerous act.’
But Justice Bampton said it was a possibility that Mr Watherston was acting in self-defence.
‘The prosecution has not excluded as a reasonable possibility that Mr Watherston, when confronted by Mr Handley, fought back because he believed he had to,’ she said.