Purdy, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions and Another: QBD 29 Oct 2008

The applicant suffered mutiple sclerosis and considered that she might wish to go abroad to end her life. She asked the court to make more clear the guidance provided by the Director as to whether her partner might be prosecuted under section 2(1) if he accompanied her to Switzerland. She said that the failure to be clear infringed her right to family life.
Held: The clause was widely phrased, and had no exceptions, but the consent of the Attorney General was required for a prosecution. The claimant’s article 8(1) rights were not engaged in this case, though the court acknowledged a divergence between the House of Lords and the ECHR in Pretty. The fact that such a wide variety of acts might constitute an offence under section 2 did not mean that the offence was not sufficiently defined. Nor did the presence of the requrement for consent from the AG make it too imprecise: ‘as a matter of legitimate public policy, it is desirable to have a degree of flexibility in the law in this area. Given the need for certainty in the definition of what constitutes the actus reus and the mens rea of the offences created by s.2(1) of the Act, the only way to have such flexibility is by creating the statutory requirement of permission before a potential accused can be prosecuted. In the criminal law of England and Wales, decisions on whether or not to prosecute offences are not taken by judges. They are taken by the executive. In our view, s.2(4) of the Act was clearly intended to grant this flexibility and followed established constitutional practice (which is not challenged) in putting the means of exercising the flexibility – by a discretion as to prosecution – in the hands of the executive in the form of the DPP and his delegates. ‘
The number of occasions on which such issues remained to be considered remained low, and the guidance was sufficiently precise to ensure that any prosecution would be in accordance with law.

Scott baker LJ, Aikens J
[2008] EWHC 2565 (QB)
Bailii, Times
Suicide Act 1961 2(1), Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 1, European Convention on Human Rights 8(1) 8(2)
England and Wales
CitedRodriguez v Attorney General of Canada 30-Sep-1993
Canlii (Supreme Court of Canada) Constitutional law – Charter of Rights – Life, liberty and security of the person – Fundamental justice – Terminally ill patient seeking assistance to commit suicide – Whether . .
CitedRegina (on the Application of Pretty) v Director of Public Prosecutions and Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 29-Nov-2001
The applicant was terminally ill, and entirely dependent upon her husband for care. She foresaw a time when she would wish to take her own life, but would not be able to do so without the active assistance of her husband. She sought a proleptic . .
CitedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
CitedPretty v The United Kingdom ECHR 29-Apr-2002
Right to Life Did Not include Right to Death
The applicant was paralysed and suffered a degenerative condition. She wanted her husband to be allowed to assist her suicide by accompanying her to Switzerland. English law would not excuse such behaviour. She argued that the right to die is not . .
CitedHerczegfalvy v Austria ECHR 24-Sep-1992
The applicant was detained in an institution for mentally deranged offenders. While so detained he was subjected to the forcible administration of food and neuroleptics and to handcuffing to a security bed. He complained of violation of his Article . .
CitedHasan and Chaush v Bulgaria ECHR 26-Oct-2000
The Grand Chamber considered executive interference in the appointment of the Chief Mufti of the Bulgarian Muslims: ‘Where the organisation of the religious community is at issue, Article 9 must be interpreted in the light of Article 11 of the . .
CitedJD, MAK and RK, RK and Another v East Berkshire Community Health, Dewsbury Health Care NHS Trust and Kirklees Metropolitan Council, Oldham NHS Trust and Dr Blumenthal CA 31-Jul-2003
Damages were sought by parents for psychological harm against health authorities for the wrongful diagnosis of differing forms of child abuse. They appealed dismissal of their awards on the grounds that it was not ‘fair just and reasonable’ to . .
CitedRegina v Sectretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Razgar etc HL 17-Jun-2004
The claimant resisted removal after failure of his claim for asylum, saying that this would have serious adverse consequences to his mental health, infringing his rights under article 8. He appealed the respondent’s certificate that his claim was . .
CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedCountryside Alliance and others, Regina (on the Application of) v Attorney General and Another HL 28-Nov-2007
The appellants said that the 2004 Act infringed their rights under articles 8 11 and 14 and Art 1 of protocol 1.
Held: Article 8 protected the right to private and family life. Its purpose was to protect individuals from unjustified intrusion . .
CitedKay and Another v London Borough of Lambeth and others; Leeds City Council v Price and others and others HL 8-Mar-2006
In each case the local authority sought to recover possession of its own land. In the Lambeth case, they asserted this right as against an overstaying former tenant, and in the Leeds case as against gypsies. In each case the occupiers said that the . .
CitedGovernment of the United States of America v Barnette and Montgomery (No 2) HL 22-Jul-2004
The applicant sought to resist orders for the return to the US of what were alleged to be the proceeds (direct or indirect) of a fraud committed there. She had been in contempt of the court in the US and was a fugitive here. She complained that the . .
CitedThe Sunday Times (No 1) v The United Kingdom ECHR 26-Apr-1979
Offence must be ;in accordance with law’
The court considered the meaning of the need for an offence to be ‘in accordance with law.’ The applicants did not argue that the expression prescribed by law required legislation in every case, but contended that legislation was required only where . .
CitedGoodwin v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-Mar-1996
An order for a journalist to reveal his source was a breach of his right of free expression: ‘The court recalls that freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and that the safeguards to be afforded to . .
CitedDunbar (As Administrator of Tony Dunbar Deceased) v Plant CA 23-Jul-1997
The couple had decided on a suicide pact. They made repeated attempts, resulting in his death. Property had been held in joint names. The deceased’s father asked the court to apply the 1982 Act to disentitle Miss Plant.
Held: The appeal was . .

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Crime, Family, Human Rights

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.277345