Advanced Search

Consultation on the interim policy for prosecutors on assisted suicide

Find out more about the consultation on the interim policy for prosecutors on assisted suicide

How to respond to the consultation - a quick guide

By email

  1. Download the consultation document
  2. Complete the form by typing in the spaces
  3. Send an email to us and attach your response

By post

  1. Download and print the consultation document
  2. Complete the form
  3. Send the completed form to us at the address below:

Assisted Suicide Policy Team
Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters
50 Ludgate Hill
London
EC4M 7EX

Key Facts - Assisted Suicide Interim Policy

  1. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC, is responsible for the vast majority of criminal prosecutions in England and Wales and is the head of the Crown Prosecution Service.
  2. On 30 July 2009 the House of Lords allowed an appeal by Debbie Purdy and required the DPP to promulgate a offence-specific policy on prosecuting cases of assisted suicide.
  3. The DPP does not have any authority to change the law but does have a discretion to decide, in cases where there is sufficient evidence, whether a prosecution is in the public interest or not.
  4. Assisting suicide refers to helping someone to take his or her own life. It does not refer to euthanasia or mercy killing. Taking someone's life, as opposed, to helping them to take their own life, is murder or manslaughter.
  5. The DPP's Interim Policy for Prosecutors in respect of Cases of Assisted Suicide:
    • details the public interest factors that CPS prosecutors will consider when deciding whether or not to prosecute someone for assisting suicide
    • details those public interest factors which carry more weight than others
    • supplements the Code for Crown Prosecutors, a publicly available document which gives guidance on the general principles to be applied when making decisions about prosecutions
    • will be applied to all current and future cases until a final policy is published in Spring 2010
    • applies to all cases where the act(s) of assisting the suicide are carried out in England and Wales, regardless of where the suicide takes place
    • applies in cases of attempting to assist a suicide
    • does not address euthanasia which remains murder or manslaughter
    • does not and cannot provide any individuals with immunity from prosecution
    • does not and cannot provide an assurance that individuals will be prosecuted
    • does not and cannot decriminalise assisted suicide
  6. The offence of assisting suicide is a criminal offence under Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. The Act defines assisting a suicide as 'aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring' the suicide of another.
  7. Committing or attempting to commit suicide is not a criminal offence.
  8. All cases of suspected assisted suicide are referred to a central CPS team, the Special Crime Division. This division employs some of the most experienced prosecutors within the CPS.
  9. The CPS has never prosecuted any individual for assisting a suicide in relation to suicides committed abroad, including the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. We considered 8 cases in the 10 years to September 2008 where the parties travelled or intended to travel abroad in order to commit suicide.
  10. The CPS has commenced criminal proceedings in 16 instances of alleged assisted suicide between April 2005 and today.

23 September 2009

Top of page