Permission granted for assisted suicide challenge

1 May 2019

A High Court Judge has granted permission for a Judicial Review of recent liberalisation of the prosecution policy in relation to the law on assisted suicide.

The Suicide Act 1961 makes it a criminal offence to assist or encourage suicide. The Director of Public Prosecutions has a discretion on whether to prosecute according to the published policy.

Last October, the DPP amended the policy, making the prosecution of healthcare professionals in assisted suicide cases less likely.

Disability rights campaigners made the application for a Judicial Review of the DPP’s changes, which was heard in the High Court today.


Granting permission, Lord Justice Bean said:

“We propose to grant permission to proceed with the substantive claim. We are saying nothing about the strength of the claimant’s claim beyond saying it is not frivolous or vexatious.

“The importance of the subject matter, and because justices did not speak with one voice in Nicklinson, leads us to the conclusion that the case should be heard at a divisional court.

“The main burden of the case is against the DPP.”


Nikki and Merv Kenward challenged the DPP’s actions as “unconstitutional”. Nikki Kenward, who was once so paralysed she could only wink her right eye, argued against the “liberalised” guidelines. She and her husband campaign against euthanasia and assisted suicide through the Distant Voices campaign group.

Nikki welcomed the decision, saying: “The judge’s decision today is a great relief to me and people like me. We are the ones who will suffer as a result of the change in guidance. The message from these new guidelines is that society thinks you are in the way. The best thing you can do is to agree to die.

“With the judge granting a Judicial Review we now have hope that the decision will be reversed and vulnerable people will be protected.”

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