PRESS ASSOCIATION -- The Crown Prosecution Service has not implemented a "blanket policy" banning the prosecution of cases of assisted suicide, its head has insisted.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer admitted that no prosecutions had been brought for the offence since new CPS guidelines were issued 18 months ago.
But he said after personally overseeing all the "unique" cases since then, none have involved an individual who was "motivated by the prospect of gaining from the victim's death".
Mr Starmer's comments came after campaigners against a change in assisted suicide law claimed prosecutors were interpreting the new guidelines too liberally and risked creating "legalisation by stealth".
Supporters of a change in the law however said the protocol - which was introduced in February last year and put the motives of those assisting suicide at the centre of the decision over whether they should be prosecuted - is not enough.
In an interview with The Times newspaper, Mr Starmer said: "Any inference that the Crown Prosecution Service has implemented a blanket policy of simply not prosecuting for this offence would be wrong.
"Each case is carefully considered on its own facts and merits. Prosecutors must decide the importance of each public interest factor in the circumstances of each case and go on to make an overall assessment.
"Assisting or encouraging suicide remains a criminal offence, and there must always be a thorough investigation into any suspected cases."
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of the Care Not Killing alliance, yesterday said there was a "very real danger" that prosecutors would in effect create laws which ran "contrary to the will of Parliament".
"The director of public prosecutions (DPP) has a duty to uphold the will of parliament but with no prosecutions resulting from the last 44 cases he appears to be interpreting his own prosecution guidance very liberally indeed," he said.
Below is a statement from Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, and the PA copy. Regards, Nick
In a statement Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of the Care Not Killing alliance said:
"The law is clear and has not been changed. Assisting or encouraging suicide is a serious crime carrying a discretionary sentence of up to 14 years. This law acts as a powerful disincentive to exploitation and abuse.Suggest a correction
The DPP has a duty to uphold the will of parliament but with no prosecutions resulting from the last 44 cases he appears to be interpreting his own prosecution guidance very liberally indeed.
We are deeply concerned about the disproportionate weight and liberal interpretation that he appears to be giving to the phrases 'wholly motivated by compassion" and "voluntary, clear and settled decision'.
There is a very real danger here of legalisation by stealth which runs contrary to the will of parliament. This could encourage more abuse and place vulnerable sick, disabled and elderly people at much greater risk."