UK: ‘Mercy killing’ prosecutions to be less likely in new guidance

Prosecutors in the UK are proposing to soften their stance on so-called ‘mercy killings’ so that people involved with them are less likely to face criminal charges.

In cases where a suspect is “wholly motivated by compassion” or where the person had reached a “voluntary, settled and informed decision to end their life”, prosecutors will be told that the case may not be in the public interest. The same will be the case when someone has tried to take their own life as part of a suicide pact.

By contrast, existing advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says that, where there is enough evidence, “a prosecution is almost certainly required, even in cases such as the ‘mercy killing’ of a sick relative”.

Under the proposals, prosecution would not “automatically follow” even where there is enough evidence to bring charges.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the proposals “could cause great harm to individuals and society” and that they would “weaken the protection the law provides for human life”.

Senior prosecutors highlighted that the proposed guidance “specifically states that it is not intended to decriminalise murder, manslaughter or attempted murder”.