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Assisted suicide charge not in the public interest

24/05/2010

No charge will be brought against Michael Bateman in relation to the death of his wife Margaret on 20 October 2009. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today decided there was sufficient evidence to charge Mr Bateman with aiding or abetting a suicide, but it would not be in the public interest to do so.

Bryan Boulter, reviewing lawyer for the CPS Special Crime Division, said:

"I concluded that a prosecution would not be in the public interest because Mrs Bateman, who had suffered from chronic pain for decades, had a clear and settled wish to commit suicide. Interviews with Mr Bateman and the couple's sons supported this.

"It was also clear that Mr Bateman was wholly motivated by compassion. He cared deeply for his wife and had taken care of her daily needs for several years. There was no evidence to suggest any motive other than compassion.

"Mr Bateman cooperated fully with the investigation into the suicide and freely admitted assisting Mrs Bateman. As such, there was sufficient evidence to charge the offence of aiding or abetting a suicide, but it would not have been in the public interest to do so in the particular circumstances of this case."

This decision was taken in accordance with the Policy for Prosecutors in respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide. The policy outlines public interest factors for and against prosecution. None of the factors tending in favour of prosecution were applicable in this case.  

Mrs Bateman died at the family home in Birstall, West Yorkshire, after inhaling gas, which caused death by oxygen starvation.

Ends

  1. Media enquiries by phone: 020 7710 6088. Out of hours pager: 07699 781926.
  2. The Policy for Prosecutors in respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide was published on 25 February 2010 and can be found at this link: www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/assisted_suicide_policy.html
  3. Aiding or abetting a suicide was an offence under the Suicide Act 1961, punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. It was replaced by the offence of encouraging or assisting a suicide on 1 February 2010, but all acts committed prior to this date will be considered under the old offence.
  4. The Special Crime Division is responsible for reviewing and prosecuting a range of the most sensitive and specialised cases. Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has decided that all suspected cases of assisted suicide will be referred to it.
  5. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  6. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 14 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: the Central Fraud Group, Counter-Terrorism, Organised Crime and Special Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,250 people and prosecuted 1,032,598 cases with an overall conviction rate of 86.6% in 2008-2009. Further information can be found on our website.

    More about the CPS

  7. The DPP has published his long term vision for the prosecution service and its role within the wider criminal justice system. It includes modernising the service and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice - read "The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard" at www.cps.gov.uk/pps
  8. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol