Keir Starmer takes into account new guidelines: Caractacus Downes

In the first case in which the public interest factors outlined in the new guidelines published in February have been taken into account, Keir Starmer has announced that the son of the conductor Sir Edward Downes will not be prosecuted.

This is the first time that the public interest factors set out in the new guidelines to clarify the rules on assisted suicide have been applied.

Apparently there would have been sufficient evidence to charge Mr Downes under the Suicide Act 1961 with an offence of assisting suicide.  Despite this the Director of Public Prosecutions has spoken out to make it clear that he did not think it was in the public's interest to proceed with such a prosecution.  Mr Downe's father, Sir Edward, and his wife, Lady Joan Downes, died last year at the dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Mr Starmer seems satisfied that in helping the couple, their son, Caractacus Downes, was 'wholly motivated by compassion.'

Starmer has been reported as saying: "Having decided there is sufficient evidence to charge Mr Downes, it has been necessary to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

"The factor tending in favour of prosecution is that it is clear that both Sir Edward and Lady Downes were able to book the hotel room themselves and that, nevertheless, Mr Downes undertook that act.  However, the available evidence indicates that Mr Downes's parents had reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to take their own lives and in assisting them, Mr Downes was wholly motivated by compassion.

"Although his parents' wills show that Mr Downes stood to gain substantial benefit upon the death of his parents, there is no evidence to indicate that he was motivated by this prospect."

Another notable feature of the case was the minor role played by the son.  In addition the police had been informed and full co-operation with the police had been given.

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