Response to DPP’s Consultation on Assisted Suicide
- The Commission has a statutory duty to promote equality and diversity, work towards the elimination of discrimination, promote human rights and build good relations between and among groups. The Commission is a non-departmental public body established under the Equality Act 2006 – accountable for the use of its funds, but independent of Government. The Commission has responsibilities in seven areas of equality: age, disability, gender, gender identity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation, as well as human rights. It has a statutory Disability Committee, established under Schedule 1 Equality Act 2006, with a decision-making role in relation to certain disability matters.
- The Commission welcomes the opportunity of responding to the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP’s) consultation on his interim policy for prosecutors in cases of assisted suicide. In considering our response, we have had particular regard to Section 9(1) of the Equality Act 2006, which requires us to promote awareness, understanding and protection of human rights, and encourage public authorities to comply with Section 6 Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). We have also had regard to our duties under Section 8(1) of the Act, which require us to promote awareness and understanding of rights under the equality enactments and work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination.
- Section 9 (2) of the Equality Act defines human rights as meaning rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the Convention’) together with other human rights instruments. In preparing this consultation response, the Commission has also taken particular note of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Under Section 2(1) Suicide Act 1961, a person commits an offence if he or she aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or the attempt by another to commit suicide. Section 2(4) requires the DPP’s consent for the prosecution of such an offence. The background to the present consultation lies in the judgement of the House of Lords the case of R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions  UKHL 45. Their Lordships directed the DPP to promulgate an offence-specific policy identifying the facts and circumstances to be considered in deciding whether or not to prosecute in any individual case. The interim policy, published in September 2009, seeks to identify and prioritise these facts and circumstances.
- The Commission would like to emphasise that the position taken in our response to the DPP’s consultation relates only to the proposals under consideration. We do not, as yet, have a concluded policy position on any future moves to legalise assisted dying and nothing in this response should be taken as indicating our views on this. We have considered some of the background sources and materials that have addressed the question of whether assisting suicide should be decriminalised in particular circumstances, including evidence that informed debates relating to Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.
Last Updated: 27 Jan 2010