Vic man sentenced over deadly gunplay

A Melbourne man has been given community service over the accidental fatal shooting of his friend.
A Melbourne man has been given community service over the accidental fatal shooting of his friend.

In an instant, a moment of "light-hearted fun" involving a play fight over a gun ended one life and changed others forever.

Dustin Buckley was 17 with his life ahead of him. He was shooting guns with two friends in a forest at Neerim East, in Victoria's Gippsland region, when that changed.

One friend, also then 17, loaded a shotgun and fired several times.

Based on sound alone he believed he'd emptied the weapon, so didn't try hard to stop Dustin when his mate jokingly picked up the gun and pointed it at himself.

They struggled and the gun went off, shooting Dustin in the head at close range. He died in hospital two days later, on August 29, 2017.

"The dispute over the gun was lighthearted in nature," Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan said on Tuesday, sentencing the surviving teen for his reckless conduct.

"You will have to live with the fact you caused Dustin Buckley's death for the rest of your life."

The now 20-year-old will have to complete 200 hours of community work, not only for his reckless actions but for the lies he told to try and cover them up.

He and another friend, Daniel McConnell, now 27, were convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

In the hours after the shooting they claimed it was a ricochet from an unknown shooter that struck Dustin, even performing an elaborate re-enactment.

The other boy later also told his friend's family that it was Dustin himself who had fired the fatal shot, and that it had struck a tree before ricocheting off a rock.

Justice Coghlan said those versions of events were particularly hurtful to Dustin's family and made them question the current version of events - though footage on both their phones gave it credibility.

One showed the surviving boy pointing a double-barrel shotgun at Dustin, who was heard saying "come on mate, fire a shot at me" before the other boy pulled the trigger twice.

Another video showed Dustin holding up a VB can while the other boy fired four shots at it with an air rifle.

"It shows what 17-year-olds do, even when it involves firearms," Justice Coghlan said.

"The thought that somebody might be seriously hurt or killed is the furthest from their minds."

Both McConnell and the other boy recanted their lies within 24 hours, with McConnell blaming panic.

"I don't know about you guys, but when you're that good mates with them, you do anything for them. I regret that," McConnell told officers after coming clean.

He was released on a promise to be of good behaviour for 18 months.

Australian Associated Press