A Staffordshire teenager has been cleared of the manslaughter of his friend who died after being shot in the face with an air rifle.
The 13-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted shooting 12-year-old Mitchel Picken in the eye but said the gun went off accidentally while the boys were playing at the home of a third boy in Stockton Brook.
A jury of seven women and five men at Stafford Crown Court took an hour and 40 minutes to return a unanimous not guilty verdict, rejecting the prosecution’s claim in pointing a loaded air rifle at Mitchel with his finger on the trigger, the defendant was criminally responsible.
The defendant, sitting at the back of the court with his parents, wept uncontrollably when the verdict was read out.
Andrew Robertson, QC, closing for the defence, said: "There is no doubt the defendant killed Mitchel Picken and that is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life, but it was not unlawful killing.
"It is perfectly clear when the gun went off, the intention to scare was finished. This joke, this sick joke, was over."
After the verdict Mitchel’s parents, Andrew and Joanne Picken, said: "The day Mitchel died ripped our hearts apart. He has been robbed of his life and we have been robbed of the enjoyment of sharing it with him."
They added "Air weapons are not toys. They are dangerous, they kill and cause horrific injury."
Earlier the court heard the 13-year-old pointed the gun at Mitchel and asked: "Are you scared?" He made "bang bang" noises before the gun went off, shooting Mitchel through the right eye.
The incident occurred in August.
The friend (13) told the court he, Mitchel and the defendant were firing out of his bedroom window at targets in the garden.
Mr and Mrs Picken have been lobbying MPs for tighter controls on air weapons and are expected to lend support to an air weapons amnesty in Staffordshire in the coming weeks.