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DPP to face judicial review

'If a future DPP overturned the guidelines, he would be judicially reviewed'

29 April 2015

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Disability rights campaigners have successfully lodged a legal action against the director of public prosecutions (DPP) for diluting parts of the Suicide Act 1961, without taking the changes through parliament.

The DPP, Alison Saunders, published amended prosecution policy last October which made it less likely for healthcare professional to be prosecuted in an assisted suicide case.

The Suicide Act makes it a criminal offence to assist or encourage suicide, but discretion has always rested with the DPP as to whether or not to prosecute.

Nikki Kenward, a disability rights campaigner who has challenged the amended DPP policy along with her husband Merve, said: 'The message from these new guidelines is that society thinks you are in the way. The best thing you can do is to agree to die'.

On 27 March 2014, the then solicitor general, Edward Garnier assured the House of Commons that tinkering with the guidelines by a future DPP would result in a judicial review.

He said: 'If a future DPP overturned the guidelines, he would be judicially reviewed for behaving in a rather whimsical way'.

The Kenward's believe that this assurance has now been broken.

They commented: 'The previous version of the DPP's policy was debated… where MPs were concerned that a future DPP might change the policy on assisted suicide without parliamentary approval.

'We look to that promise made by the solicitor general to ensure that the law is not changed by the back door and to protect vulnerable people like us. We believe that it was unconstitutional for the DPP to liberalise the policy on assisted suicide without the approval of the attorney general.'

Granting permission for the review to go ahead, Lord Justice Bean said: 'We propose to grant permission to proceed with the substantive claim. We are saying nothing about the strength of the claimant's claim beyond saying it is not frivolous or vexatious.

'The main burden of the case is against the DPP.'

Nikki Kenward was left completely paralysed for five months when she was struck down with Guillian-Barre syndrome in 1990.

Her condition has since improved and she is now in a wheelchair.

 

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