Jury trial over assisted suicide case to proceed in Wellington for Susan Austen video

John Weekes/Stuff.co.nz

Supporters of Susan Dale Austen, including members of pro-euthanasia group Exit International, outside Wellington District Court on May 18.

The trial of a Wellington teacher charged with helping a woman commit suicide will go ahead.

Susan Dale Austen, a 66 year-old from Lower Hutt, was charged in October after being accused of importing the controlled narcotic sedative pentobarbitone.

On Thursday morning, members of pro-euthanasia group Exit International gathered again outside Wellington District Court to show support for Austen, and for the cause of legalised euthanasia.

Susan Austen in the dock at an earlier appearance in Wellington District Court.
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Susan Austen in the dock at an earlier appearance in Wellington District Court.

Judge Denys Barry allowed the fact there was an application to vary bail to be reported, but other details of Thursday's hearing were suppressed.

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Last week, Austen, who is on bail, pleaded not guilty to aiding a suicide and importing the drug.

She was charged with aiding Annemarie Niesje Treadwell​ to commit suicide between December 2015 and June 2016.

A jury trial callover will now be held on July 25. Jury trial callovers deal with procedural issues, and ensure trials can proceed.

Some Exit International members said police should be in the dock for staging what they called an "illegal checkpoint" at which details of Exit members were collected.

The police investigation, Operation Painter, followed the death of Treadwell​, a member of Exit and of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

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She had supported former Labour MP Maryan Street's petition in support of assisted dying.

Treadwell died on June 6 in Wellington, aged 77.

The euthanasia debate was brought to national attention in 2015 when terminally ill lawyer Lecretia​ Seales​ went to the High Court to argue for the right to choose to end her own life.

Justice David Collins said it was for Parliament, not him, to decide on legalising the right to die. 

Parliament then received over 20,000 public submissions on whether or not to legalise euthanasia.

The anti-euthanasia Care Alliance said earlier this month 77 per cent of submissions opposed legalising euthanasia.

 - Stuff

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