Evans Mott was supposed to be marking his dead wife's birthday on Tuesday. Instead he was at his lawyer's, preparing for his sentencing in connection with her death.
Mott, 61, pleaded guilty to aiding a suicide after his wife Rosie Mott, 55, took her life last year to escape the aggressive form of multiple sclerosis she had suffered from for four years.
She had developed tremors that meant she could not feed herself, had trouble walking and was incontinent.
She decided to take her life as early as 2010 and in mid 2011, Evans, a successful boat builder, helped her put together an apparatus for committing suicide.
The device sat in a wardrobe until Rosie chose to use it three months later.
On December 28, 2011, Rosie asked her husband to go out and buy something from a shop to prove his absence and when he returned home she was dead.
Mott broke down outside court yesterday as he said he felt Rosie had always been with him and his sentencing, the day after her birthday, was a gift from her.
Mott was discharged without conviction after Justice Patricia Courtney ruled that the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the seriousness of the crime.
"I think it's a miracle," Mott said.
"It's just common sense. It's so good New Zealand has got the vision to say what is right and wrong."
The decision to discharge Mott was hard fought, though.
Justice Courtney made sure to say it was only granted because of Mott's individual circumstances.
As a boat builder, his work required him to travel overseas and this could have been imperilled by a conviction.
He had no previous convictions and his offending was at the low end of what was a serious offence that carried a maximum 14-year term of imprisonment, the judge said.
Justice Courtney said it was Rosie's decision to take her life and she would have found a way to do so even without help.
Rosie made a video saying goodbye and explaining her choice, which was provided to the court.
She acknowledged that public sentiment was probably with Mott but said she had to uphold the sanctity of life.
Lawyer Ron Mansfield earlier told the court Mott believed in the sanctity of life, as did his wife.
"The reality for her was that life is more than just bodily function. Life, for her, was the full experience."
"Mr Mott would have been her hero."
Mansfield said Rosie needed someone who would listen to her, help her, and not betray her by reporting her to authorities.
He asked the court to consider what it must have been like for Mott to have to say goodbye to his wife and leave the house while she took her life, so he could not be charged in relation to the death.
"He is not a coward," Mansfield said.
Not being by his wife's side as she died was punishment enough, he said.
His client's hardship was intensified by the fact he had packed up his life and was about to move overseas when police decided to charge him.
He was arrested the day before he left for a new job in Spain.
It said: "Mentally, Rosie did not want to die - she wanted to live and live a long and full life. Physically she had run out of options."
He said Rosie did not want publicity to be an issue. "She did what she had to do privately. She did not want to be a campaigner."
"Rosie died in her own time, by her own hand and sadly alone. This is not how she would have chosen to end her life. She insisted on dying in those circumstances, to prevent those who she loved from being legally implicated or liable. She...would be sad to see that she failed despite her sacrifices."
"Regardless of the fact that Rosie had to die in such circumstances, I am still being held criminally responsible for supporting her decision. What kind of system expects you to turn your back on your loved one in such a time of need? Sadly, ours does. This is a problem - one that causes heartache, misery and needless suffering.
"As it stands the system does not safeguard people from becoming victims, but creates victims of caring people. This is not just my problem - it is a community problem. Ultimately it's everyone's problem.
"Charging and bringing before our criminal courts otherwise good and hardworking citizens already dealing with the loss and grief of losing their loved ones is not an answer or a deterrent. Neither is convicting someone and penalising them. Why has supporting someone in constant untreatable pain, who chooses to end it in the only way possible, been deemed criminal? Why is being there for someone who is suffering intolerably worthy of incarceration and stigma?
"I feel that these trying times have been my penance for not being able to save Rosie. Logically, I know I can't work miracles. Emotionally though I feel that I let her down and that I should have found the miracle cure. But no one has for MS, not yet."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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