Assisted suicide – disability rights campaigners challenge rules

John Aston reports in The Independent (29/04/2015) – Disability rights campaigners have won permission to bring a legal challenge against Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), over her current policy in relation to the law on assisted suicide.

The Suicide Act 1961 makes it a criminal offence to assist or encourage suicide. The DPP has discretion on whether to prosecute, and last October, the DPP amended the published policy, making the prosecution of healthcare professionals in assisted suicide cases less likely.

Alison Saunders - DPPThere is growing concern that Mrs Saunders, above, is more interested in pursuing particular campaign agendas rather serving the interests of the public at large.

Today Nikki and Merv Kenward were given permission to challenge the DPP’s actions, arguing that the DPP had in fact “changed” the policy and made it more “liberal”.

They argue that the significance and legality of the change should now be properly assessed.

Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mr Justice Hickingbottom, gave the Kenwards permission to seek judicial review at a High Court hearing in London.

John McGuiness QC, had argued on behalf of the DPP that there was no legal basis for the challenge.

But the judge said permission was justified by the “importance” of the subject matter of the case combined with the fact that the Supreme court “did not speak with one voice” on the issued it raised.

Outside court, Mrs Kenward, from Aston on Clun, Shropshire, welcomed the decision, saying: “I am delighted and shocked.”

“Whatever your views on assisted suicides it will continue to be an emotive issue”