By JAMES GARDINER
Euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin will have the weekend behind bars to reconsider her refusal to contemplate home detention as an alternative to prison.
Martin, 40, was convicted and sentenced yesterday to 15 months' jail for the 1999 attempted murder of her terminally ill mother, Joy.
The self-proclaimed public face of the euthanasia debate in New Zealand has been urged by two of the people closest to her - her husband and older brother - to apply for home detention rather than go to Arohata Women's Prison.
Even the man who put her behind bars, Justice John Wild, said he hoped she would think about her son and husband before deciding whether to apply.
Martin has said she would not make her home a prison.
But Crown prosecutor Andrew Cameron said that "smacks of wanting to make a martyr of herself".
Older brother Mike Martin, who has backed his sister despite being called as a prosecution witness in her trial, said he would try to talk her out of her stance for the sake of her 10-year-old son, Sean.
In the High Court at Wanganui yesterday, Justice Wild said Martin appeared to believe she was above the law, displayed arrogance and lacked remorse.
Though he did not doubt the sincerity of her views or that it was out of love and compassion that she tried to take her dying mother's life, many other people just as sincerely held the opposite view on euthanasia, and the law reflected that.
There were no dramatic scenes inside the courtroom as occurred a month ago when a jury found her guilty.
Martin said nothing as she turned grim-faced and walked out of the dock accompanied by prison guards.
Martin's lawyer, Donald Stevens, QC, immediately announced his intention to lodge appeals against conviction and sentence as well as a bail application that he hoped might lead to his client being quickly released. The bail application will not be heard until Monday.
Justice Wild rejected Dr Stevens' applications for a discharge without conviction or conviction and discharge without further penalty.
He said he did not accept that the circumstances in which Martin tried to take her mother's life in 1999 were as extreme, unusual or at the limits of human endurance as Dr Stevens had tried to paint them.
"All over New Zealand every day, or at least every week, ordinary decent New Zealanders are dealing with similar circumstances."
The judge said there were four mitigating features - Martin's good character and lack of previous offending, that she acted out of love and compassion, was open about what she did and that Joy Martin was clearly near death.
But there were more aggravating features - premeditation, Martin's experience as a registered nurse, the breach of trust with the other doctors and nurses involved in Joy's care, her failure to consult her brother and sister, and her lack of remorse.
"You seem in some way to believe you are above the law," he told Martin.
Earlier, Mr Cameron said a sentence to protect the public was required. He asked for a two-year jail term.
He said Martin had said she would do the same thing if the same circumstances arose again and wanted a law change so she and others would never be placed in that situation.
The law must be upheld or there would be anarchy, Mr Cameron said.
"If people will not acknowledge and respect the parliamentary process, there must be a deterrent."
He said Martin's outspoken views before and since the trial were intended to create "a climate of sympathy and pressure on the court".
Justice Wild said he did not accept that Martin's giving interviews or campaigning for euthanasia law change were aggravating features, but he did agree that a deterrent was needed for her.
"I see it as my duty to express the community's and the law's denunciation of actions which conflict with or devalue the sanctity of human life."
Justice Wild quoted an English law report that said the law did not condone mercy killings because the motive might often be to relieve the killer of a burden he or she had come to find intolerable, and that person would commonly be the only one able to give an account about what occurred and the motives for it.
Even if voluntary euthanasia were legalised, the judge said, the right to carry it out would almost certainly be restricted to doctors, not nurses and not family members.
A further sentencing purpose was to promote in Martin a sense of responsibility for what she had done, but Justice Wild said he regarded that as futile.
In terms of the effect Martin's action had on others, Justice Wild said it was significant that her husband of the past year, Warren Fulljames, was concerned about the effect on her younger son of her preoccupation with the euthanasia cause.
Mr Fulljames had also been hurt by Martin's decision that should she go to jail, Sean would be cared for by other people away from their home in New Plymouth, rather than him.
"It is clear that your actions have caused a huge rift in your family."
Dr Stevens submitted that what Martin did in administering an overdose of morphine on the night of May 27, 1999, "was driven solely by love, compassion and mercy".
To imprison her would be "unconscionable ... not the action of a civilised society", he said.
Justice Wild said he placed Martin "squarely in the middle" of what he saw as the range of sentences for mercy killings, one to 3 1/2 years.
He exercised his "prerogative as a sentencing judge for showing you mercy" and set the term at 15 months.
He granted leave for her to apply for home detention, although Dr Stevens said Martin had told him she would not apply for it.
He said that would give Martin the opportunity to at least think about applying.
"If you do that, you might think about your son and your husband."
Outside the court, Paul Stannard of Exit NZ, the euthanasia group Martin formed, said he was disappointed at the outcome.
"The polls have been signalling for a long time that there's strong support for voluntary euthanasia.
"The politicians have got to vote money for palliative care and they've got to get around to having a serious debate about voluntary euthanasia."