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No charges following death of Raymond Cutkelvin

25/06/2010

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, has today said that while there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Alan Cutkelvin Rees and Dr Michael Irwin in relation to the death of Raymond Cutkelvin at a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland in February 2007, such a prosecution would not be in the public interest and no further action should be taken against them.

Mr Cutkelvin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the autumn of 2006. It was impossible to operate and he declined treatment. In October, he contacted Dignitas, a Swiss assisted suicide charity, so that he could plan when and how to end his life. He joined Dignitas and in January 2007 was given consent by Dignitas to access an assisted suicide there.

In February 2007, Mr Cutkelvin travelled to Switzerland with his civil partner, Mr Rees, Dr Irwin and a close friend and a relative. On 28 February he drank a fatal dose of medication, which ended his life. He was not a wealthy man and nobody benefited financially from his death.

No criminal complaint has ever been made about Mr Cutkelvin's death and a police investigation was only started when an article appeared in a London newspaper two years later making reference to Mr Cutlkelvin. The focus of that investigation was on the acts of Mr Rees and Dr Irwin.

Having reviewed the evidence gathered in the investigation, Mr Starmer said:

"There is sufficient evidence to establish that Mr Rees collated information to send to Dignitas, that he used their joint account to pay more than £3,000 towards the costs and that he accompanied Mr Cutkelvin to the airport and on the flight to Switzerland. These acts, taken together, are capable of amounting to assisting suicide.

"But applying the Policy for Prosecutors in respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide, I have concluded that none of the public interest factors in favour of prosecution apply in Mr Rees' case. The evidence shows that Mr Cutkelvin was a strong-minded man who had the capacity to reach an informed decision to commit suicide and he clearly did so without any pressure from Mr Rees or anyone else. Mr Rees acted throughout as a supportive and loving partner and was wholly motivated by compassion."

"Regarding the actions of Dr Irwin, there is sufficient evidence to establish that in February 2007 he visited Mr Cutkelvin to discuss the procedures involved in going to a Dignitas clinic, that he paid £1,500 of his own money directly to Dignitas as a contribution towards the costs and that he accompanied Mr Cutkelvin on the flight to Switzerland. Again, these acts taken together are capable of amounting to assisting suicide.

"Applying the Policy in Dr Irwin's case, I have concluded that although there are some factors in favour of prosecution, there are also a number of factors against prosecution. Although Dr Irwin was unknown to Mr Cutkelvin before February 2007 and although he provided him with information and contributed to the overall costs, Mr Cutkelvin was a strong-minded 58 year old man who had the capacity to reach an informed decision to commit suicide and clearly did so without any pressure from Dr Irwin or anyone else. He had clearly resolved not to take up treatment for his cancer, he had made a living will and his plans to travel to a Dignitas clinic to commit suicide were at a very advanced stage before he ever met Dr Irwin.

"I have concluded that Mr Cutkelvin had a clear intention to commit suicide and would have done so without any assistance from Dr Irwin. Dr Irwin was not out to gain for himself and has fully co-operated with police enquiries. He is now 79 years old and although there is evidence that he received a caution in 2004 for an offence relating to assisted suicide, it is highly unlikely, in the particular circumstances of this case, that a court would impose anything other than a nominal penalty on him."

"As I have stated previously, applying the policy is not simply a matter of adding the factors for and against prosecution - they must be considered in the unique circumstances of each case and nothing in this decision should be taken as an indication that particular acts will not be investigated in the future or that they would not form the basis for a charge on other facts."

Ends

  1. Read a fuller explanation of the reasoning behind these decisions
  2. Read the Policy for Prosecutors in respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide
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