Lower Hutt woman pleads not guilty to assisting suicide

By Melissa Nightingale

Susan Dale Austen, accused of helping a woman commit suicide, has pleaded not guilty to the charge in Wellington District Court today. Photo/Georgina Campbell
Susan Dale Austen, accused of helping a woman commit suicide, has pleaded not guilty to the charge in Wellington District Court today. Photo/Georgina Campbell

The Lower Hutt woman accused of helping a woman commit suicide has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Susan Dale Austen, 66, appeared in the Wellington District Court this morning to enter not guilty pleas to the charge of assisting suicide, as well as a charge of importing the drug pentobarbitone, commonly used for euthanasia.

She has elected a trial by jury.

The former charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment, says Austen aided another woman to commit suicide sometime between December 21, 2015 and June 7, 2016.

Austen, a teacher, is a member of Exit Wellington, a pro-euthanasia group.

Supporters from the group, who have attended all of Austen's previous court appearances, stood outside the courthouse holding signs.

They filled the public gallery during Austen's hearing today.

The supporters had pink hearts stuck to their shirts with the name ''Suzy'' written across.

The matter was remanded to July 20 for a case review. There will also be a discussion on bail conditions next week.

Two attempts to legalise euthanasia have failed to get through Parliament. It is illegal to aid and abet suicide under the NZ Crimes Act 1961.

Family First has commented on the case.

"The police are absolutely correct to be investigating, shutting down and prosecuting the promotion of suicide in New Zealand," said director Bob McCoskrie.

Meanwhile the Voluntary Euthanasia Group has come out in support of Austen, saying the law around euthanasia is "antiquated".

"We will continue to represent this issue to Parliamentarians until the law is changed," said president Maryan Street.

Where to get help:



Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

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