.50pm - UPDATE

Euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin was sentenced to 15 months today for the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother.

She was given leave to apply for home detention.

Martin, a former intensive care nurse, was found guilty on March 31 on one count of attempting to murder her mother, Joy Martin, by injecting her with 60mg of morphine.


Mrs Martin, who had rectal cancer, died on May 28 1999. A police investigation followed her death, but no arrests were made, until three years later when Martin published her book To Die Like A Dog in which she described administering morphine to her mother.

The sentence was met by silence by all in the court room.

Immediately after the verdict Martin's lawyer Donald Stevens QC said Martin would be appealing both the conviction and the sentence.

Mr Stevens said he wished to apply for bail for his client but later Martin's brother Michael Martin said that application would not be heard until Monday.

Mr Martin said he was disappointed with the verdict.

A former policeman, he said he respected the law but sometimes "the law is an ass".

Exit NZ spokesman Paul Stannard said the organisation would be backing Martin's appeal.

He said the organisation had received exceptional support throughout Martin's trial and he urged politicians to reconsider the Death with Dignity Bill failed to pass in Parliament last year.


During her trial the Crown relied on admissions made by Martin in her book, and on admissions she made to various people.

But her defence counsel said the book and admissions were unreliable because Martin suffered from cognitive dissonance due to stress and tiredness, which had distorted her memory.

Expert witnesses for both sides agreed Martin was suffering cognitive dissonance, but there was dispute as to whether that would impact on her memory.

Immediately after the guilty verdict, Martin's counsel Donald Stevens QC told Justice Wild he would be applying for a discharge without conviction and asked that a conviction not be entered until that application was heard at today's sentencing.

Justice Wild agreed at the time not to enter a conviction until Martin's sentence was decided.

At her trial palliative care specialist Professor Roderick MacLeod said both Martin and her mother had been let down by inadequate health services, which had not provided the planning or support they needed.

The trial prompted calls for improved palliative care to ensure that people caring for the dying were properly supported.

Good quality palliative care was not available to all New Zealanders, specialists said.

Earlier this week Martin said in an interview that "not a single day" went by when she felt guilty about her actions.

"People need to understand she was black and blue and cold and rigid in her chest and hard to touch, absolutely rock solid and cold on her chest. She was actually dying and dying slowly and bleeding and I refuse to let my mother die like that," she said.

"When I pleaded not guilty it was always based on in my heart of hearts that I'm not a criminal and not a murderer and that we need to start looking at issues at the start of things rather slapping on a band aid at the end of the legal process."

Prior to the sentencing her lawyer told the High Court at Wanganui that she should be discharged without conviction for the attempted murder of her mother.

Martin's lawyer, Donald Stevens QC, told the High Court at Wanganui today that a non-custodial sentence was appropriate in his client's case.

People involved in similar cases, with fewer mitigating features than Martin's, had received non-custodial sentences in the past.

Mitigating features in Martin's case were:

* Martin's dedicated care of her dying mother;

* the failure of medical professionals to treat her mother's symptoms and pain;

* her mother was clearly dying;

* Martin herself was stressed, exhausted and emotional as a result of the round-the-clock care she was giving her mother;

* on the day she injected her mother her mother was bleeding from the mouth which acted as a trigger (for Martin's actions);

* Martin had promised to not let her mother suffer.

He said a conviction would rule out Martin working in her qualified fields of nursing, aviation, and real estate.

A conviction would be severe punishment in itself as it would stop Martin working in those fields and prevent her from travelling to other countries and continuing her work campaigning for euthanasia laws -- a major social debate.

In relation to a discharge without conviction, the many mitigating factors of the case outweighed the gravity of the offence which she had been convicted for, Mr Stevens told the court.

Crown prosecutor Andrew Cameron told the court a discharge without conviction would undermine public confidence in the justice system.

Mr Cameron said cases similar to that of Martin's had resulted in jail terms of one to three years.

He said the Crown felt compassion for Martin but had to balance that against the value of human life.

"Sanctity of life underpins our law in the most fundamental way."

He said aggravating factors were that Martin had acted unilaterally without consulting other family members, and that she had failed to completely admit her actions in court, despite earlier admitting them in her book.

The law needed to be upheld and so-called public support for the euthanasia cause should not be weighed too heavily as only last year parliament had rejected the Death with Dignity bill, Mr Cameron told the court.

He acknowledged that Martin was under stress at the time of her mother's death but said hundreds of other New Zealanders coped with the same experience each year without killing their relatives.

A clear option to killing her mother was to seek better palliative care for the remaining estimated week that her mother would have lived.

The hearing took place in a packed courtroom with people forced to sit on the floor of the public gallery at times.

Family members, supporters, and members of the jury which convicted Martin were all present.

Immediately before the hearing Martin told NZPA that home detention was not an option she would be seeking.

"If they deem this crime to be so heinous as to warrant a jail term, then I'll do it in jail," she said.

Martin sat impassively through her lawyer's submissions to Justice Wild.