Police boss calls for change in assisted dying laws for people in Milton Keynes

The local Police and Crime Commissioner has added his weight to calls to change the law on assisted dying.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 4:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 4:08 pm

Anthony Stansfeld, PCC for Thames Valley, says the UK's current blanket ban on assisted dying can cause "great suffering" to patients and their families.

AS MPs prepare to debate the subject this week, Mr Stansfeld has signed an open letter supporting a campaign called Acts of Love by the Dignity in Dying group.

The campaign is led b Buckinghamshire 77-year-old Ann Whaley, who was investigated by police last year for supporting her husband’s wish to die at Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Anthony Stansfeld

It is calls on the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, to launch an inquiry into functioning and impact of the law..

Currently legislation states that assisted dying is banned under the Suicide Act 1961 and a person found guilty of “assisting a suicide” can be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

Over the past seven years, Thames Valley Police has recorded 10 crimes of ‘aiding and abetting a suicide’, according to a Freedom of Information Request by Dignity in Dying.

Ann said: "“Geoffrey had been by my side for over 50 years and I was determined to be by his until the very end. But in supporting his final wish to die with dignity, I became a criminal under British law. It was utterly devastating to think that I might be arrested or that Geoffrey might be stopped from travelling. I hope the Justice Secretary listens to experiences like ours and conducts a much-needed review of our cruel, outdated assisted dying laws.”

Mr Stansfeld said today: “In October I wrote to the Ministry of Justice alongside 17 fellow Police and Crime Commissioners to express our misgivings with the current law on assisted dying. I felt it was important that I signed this open letter calling for changes in the law.

“It is an emotive subject but recent high profile cases have again shown that the current law can unnecessarily prolong great suffering to both the patient and their close family. It needs to be looked at again."

The chief executive of Dignity in Dying, Sarah Wootton, said: “Compassion should not be a crime, but under the UK’s blanket ban on assisted dying, it is. Not only are dying people denied the right to die on their own terms, forcing them to resort to drastic measures at home and abroad, but their family members are then criminalised for acts of love.

“An inquiry would enable the views of those most affected to be heard - terminally ill people, their loved ones, the police and other public services. We call on the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, to launch a call for evidence as a matter of urgency. Our outdated assisted dying laws deserve to be scrutinised, not dying people or their loving families."