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DPP under fire for attempted murder charge against mother

26 January 2010

Keir Starmer QC, the DPP, has been criticised by a High Court judge for pursuing an attempted murder charge against a mother who pleaded guilty to assisting the suicide of her daughter, who was crippled by ME.

Kay Gilderdale was cleared of attempted murder at Lewes Crown Court yesterday. Mr Justice Bean gave her a conditional discharge of 12 months for assisting suicide.

A CPS spokeswoman said today that the DPP’s new guidelines on assisted suicide, drawn up in September last year, did not apply to the case as it was prosecuted as attempted murder.

A lesser charge of attempting assisted suicide was added at the judge’s request, she said.

She said that the precise cause of Lynette Gilderdale’s death was unclear, including the crucial issue of whether or not it was an assisted suicide.

“There is no doubt that Mrs Gilderdale was a devoted mother who cared for her daughter Lynette up to the end of her life and we accept the jury’s decision in this case,” she said.

“The allegation was that, while acting out of love, she tried to take Lynette’s life and we believed that tipped the scale from assisting Lynette’s suicide to attempted murder.

“The law does not allow someone to take the life of another, regardless of how compassionately they do it.”

Mr Justice Bean is reported as having repeatedly questioned the attempted murder charge and invited the CPS to drop it. Before sentencing, he asked Sally Howes QC, counsel for the CPS, who decided to pursue it.

Howes told the court that the DPP took the decision, in consultation with others, in November. This has since been confirmed by the CPS.

Howes said it was thought at the highest level that the case should be “canvassed before a jury”.

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