Euthanasia case gagging order 'may breach Bill of Rights'


Legal experts and civil libertarians have condemned the gagging order on pro-euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin as a possible breach of the Bill of Rights.

Martin, who has been charged with the attempted murder of her cancer-riddled mother, Joy Martin, in 1999, is forbidden from doing media interviews, promoting her pro-euthanasia views publicly or privately and further promoting sales of her book, To Die Like a Dog.

She must also live at her Wanganui address, surrender her passport and report once a week to the police station.

The six bail conditions were set by Judge Gregory Ross in the Wanganui District Court on March 6. An appeal is expected to be lodged on Monday.

"There are serious doubts about whether they are a lawful set of conditions," said Auckland University Associate Professor of Law Paul Rishworth, who specialises in the Bill of Rights.

"On the face of it, it seems an unreasonable restriction on her freedom of expression."

Professor Rishworth said bail conditions were normally about ensuring attendance at trial, that no witnesses or evidence were tampered with, and that no further offences were committed.

The only explanation he could see for the gagging order was concern that Ms Martin would "whip up public sentiment on euthanasia" and possibly sway future jurors.

But that would normally be a contempt of court matter.

Barrister Margaret Lewis, an executive member of the Auckland Council for Civil Liberties, said: "There are real concerns about whether the bail conditions set down are in breach of the Bill of Rights."

They restricted Ms Martin's right to communicate in the ordinary course of her life.

The council would contact Ms Martin's lawyer and consider steps it could take to intervene.

An assistant for Roger Crowley, Ms Martin's lawyer, said he did not talk to reporters.

Ms Martin's fiance, Warren Fulljames, whom she will marry next month, called the conditions "crazy".

"How can they stop her from talking about an issue she feels so strongly about?"

Ms Martin, who had received enormous support, would fight the conditions, he said.

Dr Philip Nitschke, a fellow campaigner for voluntary euthanasia and director of Exit Australia, said the conditions struck at Ms Martin's livelihood - her publishing company M-Press, for which she was promoting her book and planning another covering other people's stories of troubled deaths.

Herald Feature: Euthanasia