Wellington Scoop

Euthanasia advocate fined $7500 for importing suicide drug

Report from RNZ
A euthanasia advocate found guilty of importing a drug which can be used to commit suicide has today been denied a discharge without conviction.

After a trial in the High Court in Wellington in February, Susan Dale Austen was found guilty of two importations of pentobarbitone, but was acquitted of assisting the suicide of Annemarie Treadwell.

Earlier this year the jury found Austen not guilty on one count of importing the drug but guilty on two other counts of importing it, including bringing into New Zealand the drugs Ms Treadwell used to kill herself.

Her lawyer Donald Stevens sought a discharge without conviction, saying his client had displayed high ideals in her life, including support for others, compassion, and love for humanity.

However, at the sentencing today, Justice Thomas said Austen’s crusade for a law change, as the head of the Wellington branch of pro-euthanasia group Exit International, did not reduce her culpability for breaking the current law. She entered a conviction and fined Austen a total of $7500, along with court costs.

Euthanasia advocates stood outside the court during the sentencing holding up signs to support Austen’s cause.

The charges relate to the death of Ms Treadwell, 77, who was found dead at a retirement village in Kilbirnie in Wellington in June 2016. Ms Treadwell’s death was initially treated as not suspicious, but after a suicide note was found the police investigated and a postmortem revealed she had died from pentobarbitone toxicity. Ms Treadwell’s diary revealed she was a member of a euthanasia lobby group, which Ms Austen was also involved with. In the diary she referred to “suzy” helping her to obtain drugs from overseas and also the support “suzy” was giving her.

It was revealed during the two-week trial that police had bugged Austen’s telephones, her Hutt Valley home and her car. Excerpts were played at previous court sessions, including part of a meeting of a euthanasia group held at her home.

Police were also found to have conducted a bogus drink-driving checkpoint down the road from a Hutt Valley euthanasia meeting and had used that pretext to collect the names and addresses of of those involved. A decision from the Independent Police Conduct Authority ruled that the operation was unlawful.

After the verdict in February, Austen said she was heartened by the support she had received.

“I feel absolutely delighted. It’s a glorious sunny day in Wellington and I’m very lucky. I’m so fortunate to have my gorgeous husband and one of my sons here and all the supporters who have come from all around the world to be here to support me.”

1 comment:

  1. Elaine Hampton, 11. May 2018, 19:02

    Why is so much public money being spent on prosecuting people for something that may well become legal soon, in the long term certainly as so many places have made it so.
    This slide into the moral ground with legal curbs is disturbing. I do not think it is my place to stop anyone deciding their time is up, nor anyone else’s. Stories of coercion are exaggerations if other countries’ experience is anything to go by. Free country or not!