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Prosecuting Homicide

Murder and manslaughter are two of the offences that constitute homicide.

Manslaughter can be committed in one of three ways:

  1. killing with the intent for murder but where there is provocation, diminished responsibility or a suicide pact.
  2. conduct that was grossly negligent given the risk of death, and resulted in death.
  3. conduct, taking the form of an unlawful act involving a danger of some harm, that caused death.

With some exceptions, the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane):
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing)
  • any reasonable creature (human being)
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs)
  • under the Queen's Peace
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

There are other specific homicide offences, for example, infanticide, causing death by dangerous driving, and corporate manslaughter.

Find out more about prosecuting homicide

Decision to Charge

Once the Police have completed their investigations, they will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on how to proceed. We will then make a decision on whether a suspect should be charged, and what that charge should be.

Find out more about private prosecutions

No charges following death by suicide of Daniel James

09/12/2008

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions has today said that, while there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction of Mark and Julie James in relation to the death by suicide of their son Daniel, such a prosecution is not in the public interest and no further action should be taken either against them or against a family friend who assisted them.

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions said: "This is a tragic case involving as it does the death of a young man in difficult and unique circumstances. While there are public interest factors in favour of prosecution, not least of which is the seriousness of this offence, I have determined that these are outweighed by the public interest factors that say that a prosecution is not needed.

"In reaching my decision I have given careful consideration to the Code for Crown Prosecutors. In particular, but not exclusively, I would point to the fact that Daniel, as a fiercely independent young man, was not influenced by his parents to take his own life and the evidence indicates he did so despite their imploring him not to.

"I send my condolences to Daniel's family and friends."

Daniel James committed suicide, with his parents at his side, at a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland on 12 September 2008 aged 23 years. He had been diagnosed as tetraplegic, paralysed from the chest down with no independent hand or finger movement, following an injury during a training session at his rugby club on 12 March 2007. By November 2007, his medical consultant concluded that it was unlikely that there would ever be any significant improvement in Daniel's neurological status and that there was 'no treatment available to either aid or produce recovery'.

In February 2008 Daniel first contacted Dignitas in Switzerland requesting assistance to take his own life. Before and after this time Daniel was being assessed by a consultant psychiatrist and in a report dated March 2008, she concluded that he was 'fully aware of the reality and potential finality of his decision, displays clear, coherent and logical thinking processes in order to arrive at his decision and has clearly weighed alternatives in the balance'.

In a further report dated July 2008 his consultant psychiatrist concluded that Daniel 'clearly understood that no other parties, be that professionals or family members wished him to pursue this course of action and was clearly aware that he could reverse his decision at any point. He remained firmly of the opinion that support from any agency would not be helpful for him or change his decision'.

By July 2008, despite repeated and concerted attempts by various people including his parents and medical professionals to persuade him to change his mind, it was agreed with Dignitas that Daniel would take his own life in their clinic near Zurich.

Mark and Julie James agreed that they had assisted Daniel to send documentation to Dignitas, made payments to Dignitas from their joint bank account, made travel arrangements to take Daniel to Switzerland and accompanied him on the flight.

A family friend, who had previously offered financial assistance to Daniel, was subsequently approached to assist with the arrangements for flying him to Switzerland to commit suicide. The friend arranged the flight, although he did not travel himself, and also booked a return flight for Daniel in case he changed his mind.

Mr Starmer considered offences under Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961, of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the suicide of another, in relation to Mr and Mrs James and their friend.

Ends

  1. A more detailed analysis of the evidence and decision in this case is available on the CPS website:
  2. Following initial consultation with the West Midlands Complex Casework Unit, the case was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
  3. It is not a criminal offence to commit suicide.
  4. Media enquiries to CPS press office on 020 7796 8102 or 020 7796 8127.