In the Media

Assisted suicide and decisions to prosecute

PUBLISHED March 13, 2012

There has been some confusion in media reports about yesterday?s High Court decision on Tony Nicklinson?s judicial review and the issue of the ?right to die?. It is not correct to say that the law on assisted suicide was successfully challenged by Debbie Purdy who won protection from prosecution for her husband, should he assist her suicide. In fact, assisting or encouraging suicide remains a criminal offence for all individuals. The CPS guidelines on prosecution, which were published following the Purdy case, provide a clear framework for prosecutors to decide which cases should proceed to court and which should not. The guidance does not override the will of Parliament, and neither it nor the ruling in the Purdy case grant anyone immunity from prosecution. Each allegation is reviewed on its own facts and circumstances. We will prosecute when there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so. Whether or not and to what extent someone acted out of compassion is only one of several factors prosecutors must assess and they do so by considering all of the facts of the case following a thorough investigation.