The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer acknowledged that no prosecutions had been made since CPS guidelines were given a year and a half ago. All cases of assisted suicide are considered personally by the DPP.
The Times is reporting that the Crown Prosecution Service is clearing the way for assisted suicide by not taking action in cases of assisted suicide. The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer acknowledged that no prosecutions had been made since CPS guidelines were given a year and a half ago. All cases of assisted suicide are considered personally by the DPP.
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director for the Care Not Killing Alliance, said that there was a very real danger of legislation by stealth and that prosecutors would introduce laws that were contrary to the will of Parliament. 'The director of public prosecutions (DPP) has a duty to uphold the will of parliament but with no prosecutions resulting from the last 44 cases he appears to be interpreting his own prosecution guidance very liberally indeed,' he said. 'Assisting or encouraging suicide is a serious offence that has a sentence of up to 14 years.'
'The DPP has a duty towards the will of Parliament. The law is clear and has not been changed. The law acts as a powerful disincentive to exploitation and abuse. It appears that disproportionate weight and liberal interpretation have been given to the phrases 'wholly motivated by compassion' and 'voluntary, clear and settled decision.' This policy could place vulnerable, sick, disabled and elderly people at much greater risk. Professionals who help a suicide, such as doctors and nurses, are still likely to be prosecuted.'
A CPS spokesman stated that the law had not changed. In an interview with the Times newspaper, Mr Starmer denied that he had introduced a blanket policy not prosecuting for this offence. He said, 'Each case is carefully considered on its own facts and merits. Prosecutors must decide the importance of each public interest factor in the circumstances of each case and go on to make an overall assessment." He has also said, "Assisting or encouraging suicide remains a criminal offence, and there must always be a thorough investigation into any suspected cases.'
Mr Starmer first issued guidance in September 2009 and then final guidance in February 2010. Statistics have only been gathered since 2009, when all incidences were sent to a central CPS unit. He maintains that the DPP have not encountered a case where an individual was motivated by benefitting from a victim's death.