Writing to today’s Times, the Director of Public Prosecutions, states:
“It is a fact that no prosecutions have been brought for assisting a suicide since the guidelines were issued. But any inference that the Crown Prosecution Service has implemented a blanket policy of simply not prosecuting for this offence would be wrong… Having personally overseen all the decisions to date, I know only too well how unique each of these cases turns out to be. So far, we have simply not encountered one, where an individual was motivated by the prospect of gaining in some way from the death of the victim.”
But for some, this policy amounts to effective wholesale decriminalisation of assisted suicide:
James Slack, writing in the Daily Mail, states:
“How a person ends their life is a highly complex issue which defines our humanity. It must be decided by our law-making MPs and Peers – not an anti-democratic stitch up between the chattering classes and an amenable public prosecutor.”
What Mr Slack misses, deliberately or otherwise, is that the Suicide Act 1961 sets out that:
“No proceedings shall be instituted for an offence under this section except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions”
Or in other words, Parliament wants the Director of Public Prosecutions to use his discretion in bringing prosecutions. Furthermore, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines following a decision by the House of Lords, c/o the Law Lords.
If the policy not to prosecute under certain circumstances after a full investigation runs counter ‘to the will of Parliament’, MPs and Peers have every opportunity to amend the law to make this abundantly clear. But they haven’t. In fact they haven’t even debated the guidelines since their introduction.
Undoubtedly there will be some people who think that normal law abiding citizens should be sent to prison for helping a loved one to die but they are in a minority, we suspect this is the case in parliament as well.