Couple kill son & escape jail term - Mercy killing? Manslaughter or murder?
April 3, 2007 11:12pm CST
A couple who killed their blind, intellectually disabled son "out of love" have avoided a jail term. Instead they were placed on five-year good behaviour bonds by a Sydney court. Margaret and Raymond Sutton pleaded guilty last year to the manslaughter of their son, Matthew, in April 2001. Matthew, who was born without eyes, died the day before he was to have an operation that would have left him deaf for three months and then with 10 per cent hearing at best. The cause of death could not be established, but traces of sedatives were found in his body.The offence of manslaughter carries a maximum 25-year jail term. But sentencing the Suttons in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Graham Barr said it would be "cruel" to send the pair to jail. What the Suttons did was "born of desperation" and a desire to prevent their son from suffering further pain, he said. "Nothing that the court could do by way of sentence could add to the offenders' suffering," the judge said. "The need for further punishment is spent." He placed Margaret, 60, and Raymond, 63, on five-year good behaviour bonds.The decision was met with tears from the Suttons' family and supporters in the public gallery. The court was told Margaret Sutton gave her son sedatives before her husband killed him - although he had never revealed exactly what he did to cause his son's death. Medical experts found the couple were suffering at the time from depressive illnesses which impaired their judgment. Justice Barr said the couple had devoted the best years of their life to Matthew and to his welfare. "They gave up everything for him," he said."Even the last act was born out of love." Is this an acceptable sentence in your opinion? Did they have the right to play God? Do you believe it was a justifiable act on their part or does their role as parents mean they must endure all regardless of the personal sacrifices they had to make? Is it manslaughter or actually premeditated murder?