Pensioner hid euthanasia drugs

An Albany pensioner who is the first person in Australia to be prosecuted for importing a euthanasia drug pleaded guilty yesterday, admitting that he hid his stash in a hole in bush.

Rupert Ward pleaded guilty in Albany Magistrate's Court to possessing 5g of an imported euthanasia drug, saying he got the substance in case he was to suffer a "long, drawn-out illness".

Mr Ward, 68, was first found to have been keeping less than a gram of the drug in his fridge when police searched his house on April 12.

He was one of 12 Australian members of pro-euthanasia group Exit International to have their homes searched after advice from Australian Federal Police and Customs.

When Mr Ward first appeared in court in June, he pleaded not guilty after legal aid lawyer Graeme Payne said the substance had to be sent for analysis.

Mr Ward later contacted police and directed them to bush where he had buried almost 5g of the drug in a hole covered by rocks.

Mr Payne said his client, who was supported in court yesterday by Exit International director Philip Nitschke, was anxious and had the drug for "his own peace of mind".

He told the court Mr Ward had been treated for anxiety and hypertension for two years and had pain and discomfort caused by a urinary retention condition. "He has been anxious about death and thinks about it often," Mr Payne said.

"He focuses on what might happen and how he'll manage it."

Mr Ward also pleaded guilty to possessing 185g of cannabis and a smoking implement.

Mr Payne urged Magistrate Tanya Watt to grant a spent conviction, which the prosecution did not oppose.

Ms Watt said she would impose a fine, but adjourned sentencing until today to consider whether she would allow a spent conviction based on public interest.

Outside court, Dr Nitschke said it was unfair that somebody who wanted the option of ending their life peacefully was prosecuted, but he was relieved Mr Ward would only be fined.

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