'Rejoicing it's over' - Wellington jury find euthanasia advocate Susan Austen not guilty of assisting friend's suicide

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A Wellington jury have found Susan Austen not guilty on a charge of assisted suicide, after she gave her friend the drug pentobarbitone in 2016.

The 67-year-old was found not guilty of assisting the suicide of her friend after giving her imported drug Pentobarbitone in 2016.
Source: 1 NEWS

Austen was also found not guilty on one charge of importing the class C drug, namely Pentobarbitone, in the Wellington High Court this afternoon.

However, she was also found guilty on two charges of importing a class C drug, namely Pentobarbitone.

The drug, taken in large quantities, can suppress the central nervous system, causing a coma and death.

Susan Austen was accused of importing the drug, pentobarbitone, and giving it to her friend, Annemarie Treadwell, knowing she would commit suicide.

Mrs Treadwell died at Wellington's Rita Angus retirement village from pentobarbitone toxicity on June 7, 2016.

Ms Austen pleaded not guilty to aiding suicide and to three charges of importing a class C drug.

Pentobarbitone suppresses the nervous system and in New Zealand it can only be imported for vets to euthanise pets.

The court heard that Mrs Treadwell was not terminally ill but suffered from chronic pain, arthritis and depression.

She was a supporter of the groups, Exit International and End of Life Choice.

Prior to the verdict, Justice Susan Thomas told the jury that they're required to reach unanimous verdicts.

I'm so relieved and rejoicing that it's over"
Susan Austen after being found not guilty of aiding suicide

Outside the Wellington High Court Ms Austen said she was relieved and rejoicing when she heard the verdict.

"I was almost in awe. I was shaking. And then I'm so relieved and rejoicing that it's over," she told reporters.

Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke says the not guilty verdict on the charge of aiding suicide is "a fantastic result".

Exit International founder Philip Nitschke says the verdict in Susan Austen's case sends a clear message an assisted dying law change is needed.
Source: 1 NEWS

"I think it sends a very clear message that this has to be addressed," Dr Nitschke told reporters outside the High Court in Wellington.

"I mean the risks are high. You're looking at 12 years in a prison here for this business of assisting a suicide," he said.

"There needs to be a change to laws which try to say that anyone that gives this sort of information and allows a rational person to take that choice can find themselves sitting for two weeks going through this ordeal."

Dr Nitschke said when he sees Ms Austen his message to her would be "thank goodness for this, common sense has prevailed and the jury has done the right thing".

He said charges of importing Pentobarbitone "are relatively trivial" but "the big one is assisting and that's what the jury has decided she's not guilty of".

Susan Austen's defence team argued she did help the victim get a drug, but not with the intention she would use it.
Source: 1 NEWS

Susan Austen has been remanded on bail and she'll be back in court for sentencing on the other charges in May.

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