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DPP Consultation: public response

more: Submissions, Q&As, Submissions/Q&As

7th December 2009

What is the Director of Public Prosecutions'(DPP) guidance all about?
On 30 July, campaigner Debbie Purdy won her House of Lords appeal seeking 'clarity' about whether people assisting 'loved ones' to commit suicide would face prosecution. The Law Lords' Judgment required the DPP, Keir Starmer, to produce an 'offence-specific' policy outlining the 'facts and circumstances' he will take into account in deciding whether or not it is 'in the public interest' in specific cases to prosecute someone for assisting with suicide contrary to the Suicide Act 1961.

CNK's position, representing almost 50 organisations, is that the guidance is not fit for purpose in its current form and that there are serious defects both in its underlying principles and in several of the specific prosecution criteria proposed.

What can I do?
The DPP published his interim policy statement on 23 September. The guidance contained in this took effect immediately but is subject to a public consultation. The consultation closes on 16 December and the DPP will then publish definitive guidance in Spring 2010. It is extremely important that as many people as possible take part in this public consultation and express their concerns about the guidance to the DPP.


What can I say to the DPP?
The key message to convey to the DPP is that assisting suicide is a criminal offence, and that it needs to be made clear in the guidelines that there will be a presumption in favour of prosecuting those who perpetrate it unless there are clear and compelling reasons to the contrary. This presumption is required by the Code for Crown Prosecutors but is not mentioned in the interim policy statement. We are also particularly concerned about the following 'less likely to prosecute' categories, which we believe are both discriminatory and dangerously unrealistic and as such pose serious dangers to public safety:

  • the victim is disabled or seriously/terminally ill - Parliament has repeatedly rejected legalising assisted suicide for terminally ill people and that it is a fundamental principle of the criminal law that its protection should be afforded equally to all, irrespective of their age, sex, race, religion – and state of health.
  • the victim has attempted suicide before - even though this often indicates mental illness and in prisons or hospitals such a history is grounds for extra vigilance
  • the 'assister' is a spouse, partner, or close family member - even though elder abuse (physical, emotional and financial) often occurs within apparently 'loving families'

Am I too busy to complete the Questionnaire?
If you feel you cannot complete the whole Questionnaire, please at least try and complete the all-important Question 5 – which appears on Pages 12 and 13 and lists various circumstances in which people might not be prosecuted for assisting a suicide. It is essential that a number of these circumstances – in particular, those numbered 1, 4, 6, 8 and 11 – should be firmly answered with 'No'. The Questionnaire is quite long and complex and this sadly may deter people from completing it in full – or even at all. It is vital that as many concerned people as possible should complete it and thereby make their views known.

How do I submit my Questionnaire?
Post or email the whole questionnaire to the relevant address here...

Assisted Suicide Policy Team
Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters
6th floor
50 Ludgate Hill

..or follow the instructions on the CPS site under 'how to respond'

Remember, each submission really does make a difference.
Thank you for your action

Care Not Killing Alliance

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