On Thursday , home detention for New Zealand scientist for assisting his terminally ill mother to die in an act motivated by "compassion and love", rather than personal gain, said judge while passing sentence.
Sean Davison, a South African-based forensic specialist, admitted helping his 85-year-old mother Patricia commit suicide in the South Island city of Dunedin in 2006 by giving her a drink laced with crushed morphine tablets.
AdvertisementHe originally faced up to 14 years' jail when he was put on trial for attempted murder in the High Court last month but agreed to plead guilty after prosecutors downgraded the charge to "counselling and procuring suicide".
High Court judge Christine French sentenced Davison to five months' home detention, saying the 50-year-old knew he was committing a crime in helping his mother die but the offence was "at the lower end of the scale".
"Although in my view there was significant premeditation, you acted out of compassion and love and not for any personal gain," French said.
Davison's mother had refused to eat in the weeks leading up to her death, hoping to speed up her demise, and French said she had remained strong-willed to the last, pressuring her son to end her life.
Outside the court, Davison said his case should never have been prosecuted and called for legal changes to allow voluntary euthanasia.
"This trial was not about justice, it was about getting a conviction at all costs," he told reporters. "I feel the law should be about humanity."
Davison was arrested in September 2010 but, in an unusual move, he was granted bail, allowing him to return to South Africa after he pledged to return to Dunedin for his trial, partially on the strength of a character reference from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
"I feel that the case of Dr. Sean Davison is an exceptional and tragic one," the Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-apartheid activist said.
"In my opinion he is an upright citizen who has made a contribution to society and has much more to offer. I urge the court to show leniency in sentencing."
As part of his work at South Africa's University of the Western Cape, Davison has used DNA testing to identify the remains of activists killed and dumped in anonymous graves by authorities during the apartheid era.
He will serve his home detention sentence in New Zealand before he can travel to South Africa, where he has lived for more than 20 years.
Home detention allows convicted criminals considered low-risk to serve their sentence at an approved residence provided they agree to wear an electronic anklet.