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Questions about the decision to prosecute Kay Gilderdale

26/01/2010

A question has arisen as to whether it was in the public interest for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to have prosecuted Kay Gilderdale for attempted murder.

This is an important question and, in the interests of transparency and accountability, I have decided to issue a short public answer. As is well known, before proceeding with a case, the CPS must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to bring the case before a court.

In the case of Mrs Gilderdale, the CPS was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for attempted murder on the basis that Mrs Gilderdale's conduct, which began as assisted suicide, namely passing morphine to her daughter so that her daughter could commit suicide, progressed to attempted murder when Mrs Gilderdale herself went on to administer morphine and other drugs and to introduce an air embolism to her daughter after her daughter had lost consciousness.

As the CPS assisted suicide interim policy makes clear, assisted suicide and attempted murder are very different offences. Assisted suicide involves assisting the victim to take his or her own life. Attempted murder is a step further than assisted suicide because it involves attempting to take the victim's life directly. It is a more serious offence.

In Mrs Gilderdale's case the jury rejected the allegation of attempted murder and I fully respect the verdict. I also recognise that Mrs Gilderdale was a devoted mother who acted out of love and devotion for her daughter. But the fact remains that where the CPS is satisfied that there is evidence to support a charge of attempted murder, the seriousness of that charge will very often mean that it is in the public interest to bring a case to court so that a jury can consider the evidence and return their verdict, as they did in this case.

Keir Starmer QC
Director of Public Prosecutions