Carer’s mental state cuts jail time 

Source: Newcastle Herald

A carer who tried to kill his severely disabled patient has had his sentence slashed after the Court of Criminal Appeal found that his culpability was less than first thought.

Steven James McLaren was jailed for eight years last year after he pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Barry Harrison, 61, in Mr Harrison’s home in Eleebana, north of Newcastle in October 2010.

Mr Harrison, who later died from an unrelated illness, suffered from motor neurone disease and could only move his head and eyes.

McLaren went into his bedroom at about 2am on October 5 and adjusted the bed so Mr Harrison was lying horizontally, which would lead to him choking and dying.

McLaren said he expected Mr Harrison would die quickly and it would look natural, but Mr Harrison managed to survive for about six hours before a nurse found him.

McLaren left the home and returned several hours later.

Judge Peter Berman said McLaren’s conduct was ‘‘far removed’’ from any mercy killing as Mr Harrison did not want to die.

He acknowledged that McLaren had battled mental illness in the past, but ‘‘well knew that what he was doing was seriously wrong’’.

But the Court of Criminal Appeal heard that a psychiatrist’s report that should have gone before the sentencing judge shed new light on McLaren’s mental state at the time.

‘‘Rather than ‘well knowing’ that what [McLaren] was doing was seriously wrong and being selfishly motivated, [McLaren] may be seen in the light of [the psychiatrist’s] further opinion to have been acutely affected in his sense and reason by a spiralling mental state, which saw his judgment severely impaired,’’ Justice Lucy McCallum said.

She resentenced McLaren to five years imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years. He will be eligible for parole in April 2014.