Criminal defence lawyers face scores of demanding cases, amongst which are those where the client has assisted someone to end their life. English law does not sanction euthanasia or any other form of assisted suicide. Yet, solicitors and barristers specialised in criminal law have continuously sought to apply the law in novel manners. Many clients will have committed the act in the name of compassion. As such, their defence will seek to apply the law in new manners that take into account their client’s circumstances.
The lack of prosecution of such actions could, until last year, be explained by a gap in the law. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions has subsequently made it clear that assisting someone to die, regardless on what grounds, is a criminal offence. Within the near future a man severely handicapped, after suffering a stroke, will ask the High Court to grant a doctor, who helps him to die, the common law defence of necessity in order to escape being prosecuted for murder. Criminal defence lawyers will often explore new applications of the law and look for new ways to achieve their clients' wishes. This is only one of many such controversial issues.
Therese Wallin is Content Editor at Contact Law (Thomson Reuters) and reflects here about some of the current ongoing issues affecting many in the UK. Therese has an LLB in Law and Human Rights and an LLM in Public International Law.