New UK Crown Prosecution Service guidance addresses mercy killings

The guidance focuses on homicide prosecutions

New UK Crown Prosecution Service guidance addresses mercy killings

The UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published new guidance in relation to homicide prosecutions that addresses mercy killings, according to the Law Society Gazette.

A set of criteria was established for the purposes of determining whether the prosecution of a mercy killing would be in the public interest.

“An offender who takes the life or attempts to take the life of a victim may act on the wishes of the victim and may act out of mercy, but this does not provide a defence in law”, the guidance said. Nonetheless, the chances of prosecution drop if, for instance a victim had “reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision that they wished for their life to end”.

The assessment factors in whether compassion alone motivated the suspect in such a killing, whether they were “reluctant” in their actions, and if the victim couldn’t commit suicide. The guidance also considers situations of suicide pacts in which one party survives; a suspect would be less likely to be prosecuted if a genuine suicide attempt was made at the same time as the victim.

“Each case must be considered on its own facts and on its own 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”, DPP Max Hill KC said. “But it is very important to note that we will always prosecute cases of murder and manslaughter where there is sufficient evidence, and it is in the public interest”.

The guidance also included the definition and treatment of the defences of diminished responsibility and loss of control.

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