Euthanasia: Prosecutions

Attorney General written question – answered on 17th May 2021.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

To ask the Attorney General, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Policy for Prosecutors in Respect of Cases of Encouraging and Assisting Suicide between 1 April 2009 and 1 April 2021.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

To ask the Attorney General, how many of the 167 cases referred to the CPS by police under the Suicide Act 1961, Sections 2(1) and 2(A), between 1 April 2009 and 31 July 2020 did not result in a charge; and how many of those cases failed to pass the (a) evidential and (b) public interest stage.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

To ask the Attorney General, how many of the 167 cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service by police under sections (a) 2(1) and (b) 2(A) of the Suicide Act 1961 between 1 April 2009 and 31 July 2020 related to a person with a terminal illness.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Solicitor-General, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

CPS Policy on assisted suicide provides guidance to prosecutors on assessing the evidential and public interest stages in the Code for Crown Prosecutors when reaching decisions in cases of encouraging or assisting suicide.

The Policy promotes consistency of decision making and is very clear about the factors which are to be considered both for and against prosecution. It sets out clear guidance about the importance of establishing whether the decision of the person who wants to commit suicide is voluntary, clear, settled, and informed, and whether the decision has been made without any pressure from the suspect.

The CPS publishes information collated from manual records on cases relating to Assisted Suicide. From 1 April 2009 up to 31 January 2021, there have been 167 cases referred to the CPS by the police that have been recorded as assisted suicide. Of these 167 cases:

  • 110 were not proceeded with by the CPS;
  • 32 cases were withdrawn by the police;
  • eight are currently ongoing cases;
  • three cases of encouraging or assisting suicide have resulted in a conviction;
  • one case of assisted suicide was charged and acquitted after trial in May 2015; and

eight cases were referred onwards for prosecution for homicide or other serious crime.

Of the 110 cases not proceeded with by the CPS, manual records indicate:

  • 29 - did not meet the evidential stage.
  • 45 - were not in the public interest.
  • 30 – where information on either the evidential test or the public interest test is not recorded.

A further six cases are recorded with more than one suspect in the same case; these resulted in a mixed outcome where the evidential stage was not met for some suspects and the public interest test was not met for the others.

CPS manual records do not capture specific case circumstances, including those relating to persons with a terminal illness.

The CPS collects data to assist in the effective management of its prosecution functions. The CPS does not collect data that constitutes official statistics as defined in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

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