Purdy, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions: HL 30 Jul 2009

Need for Certainty in Scope of Offence

The appellant suffered a severe chronic illness and anticipated that she might want to go to Switzerland to commit suicide. She would need her husband to accompany her, and sought an order requiring the respondent to provide clear guidelines on the circumstances under which someone might be prosecuted under section 2 of the 1961 Act for that assistance.
Held: The Director was required to provide guidance on the factors which would be taken into account in deciding whether to prosecute someone for assisting a suicide. The House itself could not change the law, that would be for Parliament. Departing from Pretty, the claimant’s article 8 rights were engaged. The citizen had a right to have the law formulated with such precision as would allow him to regulate his conduct so as to avoid prosecution. The Code for Crown Prosecutors for article 8.2 purposes was to be seen to be part of the law. The Code as it stood offered almost no guidance.
Lord Hope observed that the Convention’s concept of law: ‘implies qualitative requirements, including those of accessibility and foreseeability. Accessibility means that an individual must know from the wording of the relevant provision and, if need be, with the assistance of the court’s interpretation of it what acts and omissions will make him criminally liable: see also Gulmez v Turkey (Application No 16330/02) (unreported) given 20 May 2008, para 49. The requirement of foreseeability will be satisfied where the person concerned is able to foresee, if need be with appropriate legal advice, the consequences which a given action may entail. A law which confers a discretion is not in itself inconsistent with this requirement, provided the scope of the discretion and the manner of its exercise are indicated with sufficient clarity to give the individual protection against interference which is arbitrary: Goodwin v United Kingdom (1996) 22 EHRR 123 , para 31; Sorvisto v Finland , para 112.’

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Hope of Craighead, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury
[2009] UKHL 45, Times 31-Jul-2009, [2009] UKHRR 1104, (2009) 12 CCL Rep 498, [2009] HRLR 32, [2010] 1 Cr App R 1, (2009) 109 BMLR 153, 12 CCL Rep 498, 27 BHRC 126, [2009] 3 WLR 403, [2009] 4 All ER 1147
Suicide Act 1961 2(1), Accessories and Abettors Act 1861 1, Homicide Act 1957 4(1)
England and Wales
CitedRex v William Britton Dyson 1823
If a man encourages another to murder himself and is present abetting him while he does so, such person is guilty of murder as a principal. If two encourage each other to murder themselves together, and one does so, but the other fails in the . .
CitedRex v Henry Russell 1832
If a woman takes poison with intent to procure a miscarriage and, dies of it, she is guilty of self-murder, whether she was quick with child or not, and a person who furnished her with the poison for that purpose will, if absent when she took it, be . .
CitedRex v Croft CCA 1944
A person who was present at the suicide of another and who assisted or encouraged the suicide, is guilty of murder as a principal in the second degree. The survivor of a suicide pact was properly convicted of murder. The court considered liability . .
CitedRegina v Elizabeth Burgess 1862
The defendant was accused of attempting to kill herself. The court considered wheher this was a felony rather than a misdemeanour. Pollock CB said: ‘We are all of opinion that the jurisdiction of the Quarter Sessions is not taken away by the 24 and . .
Appeal fromPurdy, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions and others CA 19-Feb-2009
The claimant suffered a debilitating terminal disease. She anticipated going to commit suicide at a clinic in Switzerland, and wanted first a clear policy so that her husband who might accompany her would know whether he might be prosecuted under . .
At First InstancePurdy, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions and Another Admn 29-Oct-2008
The applicant said that the defendant had unlawfully failed to provide detailed guidance under section 10 of the 1985 Act, on the circumstances under which a prosecution might lie of a person performing acts which might assist another to commit . .
CitedTreacy v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 1970
Blackmail was alleged under section 21 of the 1968 Act, the letter making the unwarranted demand with menaces having been posted from England to an intended victim in Germany.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. To allow an English court to have . .
CitedCox v Army Council PC 1963
The provisions of the English Army Act, are to be applied ‘in diverse circumstances wherever the armed forces of the Crown happen to be, in developed or undeveloped countries, as conquerors or guests, and their purpose is . . Disciplinary.’ Criminal . .
CitedSomchai Liangsiriprasert v Government of the United States of America PC 1991
(Hong Kong) Application was made for the defendant’s extradition from Hong Kong to the USA. The question was whether a conspiracy entered into outside Hong Kong with the intention of committing the criminal offence of trafficking in drugs in Hong . .
CitedRegina v Harden 1962
The appellant, in England, sent false hire purchase agreements to a company in Jersey, who posted back cheques to him. The court analysed the transaction in contractual terms, and held that as the post office was the appellant’s agent to carry the . .
CitedLibman v The Queen 10-Oct-1985
CANLII (Supreme Court of Canada) Appellant was committed for trial on seven counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud arising out of the conduct of his Toronto telephone sales solicitation room. . .
CitedClements v HM Advocate 1991
An offence charged was a contravention of the 1971 Act. Observing that the criminal enterprise with which the appellants were concerned was the whole network or chain of supply, right up to the end of the chain where the harmful effects were to be . .
CitedPractice Statement (Judicial Precedent) HL 1966
The House gave guidance how it would treat an invitation to depart from a previous decision of the House. Such a course was possible, but the direction was not an ‘open sesame’ for a differently constituted committee to prefer their views to those . .
CitedRegina v Smith (Wallace Duncan) (No 1) CACD 13-Nov-1995
In the offence of fraudulent trading, ‘creditors’ are those to whom money was owed, including future creditors, not just those who can presently sue. Deceptions practised in UK, but having their effect abroad are prosecutable here. The only feature . .
CitedRegina v Manning CACD 23-Jul-1998
The accused dishonestly falsified a number of insurance cover notes which were said to be documents required for an accounting purpose, namely, those of the persons who had sought cover and to whom the cover notes were forwarded. The accused ran his . .
CitedLewis, Taylor and Mcleod, Brown, Taylor and Shaw v the Attorney General of Jamaica and Another PC 12-Sep-2000
(Jamaica) When the Privy Council considered a petition for mercy by a person sentenced to death, it could not revisit the decision, but could look only at the procedural fairness of the system. The system should allow properly for representations, . .
CitedRJM, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions HL 22-Oct-2008
The 1987 Regulations provided additional benefits for disabled persons, but excluded from benefit those who had nowhere to sleep. The claimant said this was irrational. He had been receiving the disability premium to his benefits, but this was . .
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 . .
CitedRegina v Kansal (2) HL 29-Nov-2001
The prosecutor had lead and relied at trial on evidence obtained by compulsory questioning under the 1986 Act.
Held: In doing so the prosecutor was acting to give effect to section 433.
The decision in Lambert to disallow retrospective . .
CitedJames, Regina v CACD 25-Jun-2009
The defendant appealed against his conviction for communicating information likely to be useful to an enemy. His sentence was heavier because of the trust placed in him as an army officer, but the relationship with the foreign power had not fully . .
CitedSmith (Wallace Duncan), Regina v (No 4) CACD 17-Mar-2004
The defendant appealed convictions for fraudulent trading and obtaining property by deception, saying that the English court could not prosecute an offence committed principally in the US.
Held: Provided some substantial element (here the . .
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 . .
Overruled in PartRegina (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 . .
CitedSmedleys Limited v Breed HL 1974
The defendant company had sold a can of peas. A caterpillar was found in it.
Held: Despite having shown that they had taken all reasonable care, the defendant was guilty of selling food not to the standard required. The defence under the Act . .
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 . .
CitedSorvisto v Finland ECHR 13-Jan-2009
A criminal law which confers a discretion is not in itself inconsistent with the requirement for certainty, provided the scope of the discretion and the manner of its exercise are indicated with sufficient clarity to give the individual protection . .
CitedGulmez v Turkey ECHR 20-May-2008
The applicant complained inter alia of successive decisions which had deprived him of visitation rights for about a year as punishment for disciplinary offences whilst in prison.
Held: ‘the restriction on the applicant’s visiting rights . .
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 . .
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 . .

Cited by:
CitedNicklinson v Ministry of Justice and Others QBD 12-Mar-2012
The claimant suffered locked-in syndrome and sought relief in a form which would allow others to assist him in committing suicide. The court considered whether the case should be allowed to proceed rather than to be struck out as hopeless.
CitedNicklinson and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v A Primary Care Trust CA 31-Jul-2013
The claimant had suffered a severe form of locked-in syndrome, and would wish to die. He sought a declaration that someone who assisted him in his siuicide would not be prosecuted for murder.
Held: The position in law that voluntary euthanasia . .
CitedNicklinson and Another, Regina (on The Application of) SC 25-Jun-2014
Criminality of Assisting Suicide not Infringing
The court was asked: ‘whether the present state of the law of England and Wales relating to assisting suicide infringes the European Convention on Human Rights, and whether the code published by the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to . .
CitedKenward and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v The Director of Public Prosecutions and Another Admn 4-Dec-2015
The claimants challenged the policy issued by the DPP on assisted suicide following the Nicklinson case.
Held: The request for judicial review was refused.
Sir Brian Leveson P said: ‘It is important not to misunderstand the effect either . .
CitedThe Public Guardian v DA and Others CoP 5-Oct-2018
The court considered the validity of lasting powers of attorney in the authorisation of euthanasia, and the appointment of multiple attorneys. . .
CitedGallagher for Judicial Review (NI) SC 30-Jan-2019
Disclosure of older minor offences to employers 48 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 02 January 2022; Ref: scu.368930