Friday, 26 February 2010

Summary of the DPP Guidelines

The following summary of the DPP Guildes was provided by Care not Killing.


These guidelines are a considerable improvement over the interim version because:

- They no longer suggest that a more lenient view will be taken of assisting the suicide of sick or disabled people than of assisting the suicide of others;

- They no longer give special protection to spouses and family members as assisters of suicide.

- They also make clear that assistance given by a doctor or nurse to a patient under their care would be regarded as an aggravating factor.

These are all very important and welcomed changes.

The new guidelines also make clear that the law has not changed and that anyone who assists a suicide must expect to be prosecuted unless there are clear and compelling reasons to suggest otherwise. The guidelines will give no immunity from prosecution. We welcome this reaffirmation.

Everything depends on how the CPS operates the guidelines in practice. There must be transparency over prosecution decisions. We will be watching carefully to monitor practice.

Other Messages

On the concept of publishing prosecution guidelines:

The remit given to the DPP by the Law Lords - that he should make clear his prosecution policy for assisted suicide - is inherently unsound. To tell us how far we can go in breaking the criminal law without being prosecuted risks encouraging law-breaking up to the limits suggested. It poses very real dangers to public safety.

The CPS does not tell us how much we can steal before being charged with theft or how much injury we can inflict without being charged with assault. Assisted suicide should be treated in the same way.

On the revised guidelines generally:

The law has not changed. Assisting another person’s suicide remains a criminal offence.

We are pleased to see that the DPP has emphasised that nothing in these guidelines should be interpreted as implying that a prosecution will not take place if certain boxes are ticked. Anyone minded to assist another person’s suicide should pay heed to that before embarking on such a course of action. We are also pleased to see that the DPP has emphasised that a prosecution can be expected to take place unless there are clear and compelling circumstances to suggest that that should not happen.

Recent prosecutions (eg the Gilderdale case) have shown that the Crown Prosecution Service will not hesitate to prosecute where necessary.

On the revised guidelines more specifically:

The DPP has taken on board many of the concerns that we expressed in relation to his interim guidelines. The revised guidelines are not perfect – for example, it is not clear how it is to be established that a suspect was “motivated wholly by compassion” . But they are a considerable improvement on what went before. Much will depend on how the new guidelines are put into practice. There needs to be complete transparency of prosecution decisions if public confidence is to be maintained that vulnerable people are not being put at risk.

Should you wish to see the full documentation available on the CPS website:
1. DPP Final Guidelines: Please follow this link.
2. Detailed summary of responses to the consultation: Please follow this link.
3. The Code for crown prosecutors: Please follow this link.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Snapshot on Public Opinion on Assisted Suicide

Keir Stamer, QC Director of Public Prosecution published a policy on assisted suicide on the 25th of February. Nearly 5000 responses were received by the Crown Prosecution Service following a consultation started in September. The report on the consultation exercise is available here. In the words of Mr. Stamer, "The policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim. The policy does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia. It does not override the will of Parliament. What it does is to provide a clear framework for prosecutors to decide which cases should proceed to court and which should not". The full policy is available here.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Briefing paper on End of Life Assistance Bill

The Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, SCPO has provided a very interesting briefing paper on the End of Life Assistance Bill. It provides wonderfully clear background reading on the Bill. Please follow this link to read the full text.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Is there a bias in BBC coverage about right to die?

The BBC has been accused of pushing the ‘right-to-die’ agenda by giving hours of airtime and leading news bulletins to the opinions of campaigners and publishing the results of opinion polls in a selective way. The BBC website has presented the views of celebrity fantasy fiction writer Terry Pratchett (last night’s Dimbleby lecture) and Mrs Kay Gilderdale (last night’s Panorama programme produced by Jeremy Vine) without giving similar space to opposing opinions.

If you care strongly that other views on this crucial issue be heard, please complain to the BBC about the bias of the coverage, and about the way that the views of disabled people in particular have been marginalised in a debate which affects them so personally. The complaints form can be accessed here.

Alternatively phone them on 03700 100 222 or write to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Glasgow G2 3WT