A loving Melbourne mother who was “at the end of her tether” when she tried to kill herself and her disabled adult son has been spared jail.
Yvette Nichol, 63, had been the primary carer for her autistic and epileptic son Brett, 34, for all his life until she tried to kill him and herself at their Eltham North home on May 27.
Brett suffers harrowing night terrors, which had been getting more frequent and severe in the years leading up to the incident.
One day, after writing apologetic letters to her loved ones, she attempted to end both their lives.
But both woke and Nichol called an ambulance.
She later pleaded guilty to attempted murder and is awaiting sentencing.
“I’m not going to send you to jail,” Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan said on Monday.
“As a community, we ultimately ought to be judged not on our ability to punish, but on our ability to show compassion.
“In the whole sentencing debate, it seems somewhere along the way we have lost sight of that.”
Nichol was badly sleep-deprived and depressed at the time of the incident, her lawyer Tim Marsh said.
Brett was suffering terrors every night, some lasting up to an hour, and she would calmly nurse him through the episodes.
In one particular two-week period she slept just 10 hours, the court was told.
“I would challenge anyone to say anything other than she was a woman who did all that she could to care for her son,” Mr Marsh said.
“Quite clearly she got to the end of her tether and this disastrous episode followed.
“She acted in love, not in anger, hatred or desire to gain.”
Nichol’s husband had left her about a year earlier and though she had reached out to authorities for help she wasn’t getting enough, the court heard.
The letters she wrote to loved ones before the murder-suicide attempt reveal her state of mind and motivation at the time, the judge said.
“The main theme of all the letters was you wanted to end Brett’s suffering,” Justice Coghlan said.
Nichol was remorseful and her moral culpability was low, given the difficult and unique position she faced at the time, the judge added.
She was placed on a two-year community corrections order.
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