The law in respect of assisted suicides has come under close scrutiny in recent years, with many publicised cases involving ‘mercy killings’. The legislation that covers this area is over 50 years old.
At present it remains a criminal offence to help someone commit suicide or help someone attempt to commit suicide. A person who is convicted of assisting suicide will be liable to a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment. The current law states that no proceedings shall be instituted for such an offence except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). This means that there is a discretion whether to prosecute or not. The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords in R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions required the DPP to clarify what his position is as to the factors that he regards as relevant for and against prosecution in cases of encouraging and assisting suicide.
Following a public consultation which received over 5,000 responses, the DPP published a policy to provide prosecution lawyers with guidance in respect of making decisions whether to prosecute cases referred by the police. The policy was said to provide a clear framework for prosecutors to decide which cases should go to Court and which should not. However, as each case has to be decided on its own merits and the task of assessing whether a case should be prosecuted or not could never be simplified into an exercise of determining whether there are a greater number of factors in favour or against prosecution, the decision making process is far from straightforward.
A suspect forgoing his/her right to advice or receiving poor advice runs the risk of not only being considered for prosecution for an offence of assisting suicide but talking themselves into a charge of Murder.
To safeguard your position and to see whether the assistance you need to give can be achieved without the consequences that can follow contact Dennis Clarke to discuss your needs and agree a fee structure to deal with this.