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.


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